Recently my friends on the Asimov's magazine discussion board listed their favorite female singers. As it happens, I prefer female vocalists, so most of my favorites already fit the bill.
For your edification, I shall list them here. Some are 'classic rock' performers, while others released their first albums in recent years.
Most, if not all, of these artists can be found on iTunes, and similar music download services. Not to mention your favorite local retail music stores. Enjoy!

I generally prefer talent over packaging, as I think most who read this web page will agree. I also favor singer-songwriters over heavily 'backed' band members. Some exceptions would be Joan Osbourne's against-the-grain "What If God Was One of Us," and Stevie Nicks' haunting "Beautiful Child."

My favorites by far are from the new outpouring of Folk singer-songwriters.
First up are my very favorites, from whom I've gathered many songs, from iTunes and (our local shop) Rasputin Music. In rough order of preference, from best on down:

Vienna Teng, Mariee Sioux, Rachael Davis, Mindy Smith, Shauna Burns, Eliza Gilkyson, Heather Dale, Tracy Grammer, Beth Patterson, The Wailin' Jennys, Antje Duvekot, and Annagrey.

There are so many talented folk-ish artists, I find more every time I go searching. I've downloaded one or more songs from each of these singers/artists/bands. In alphabetical order:

Jenn Adams, Gabrielle Angelique, Emily Asen, Holly Brook, Jonatha Brooke, Vashti Bunyan, Clare Burson, Kate Campbell, Eliza Carthy, Kasey Chambers, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Kris Delmhorst, Sandy Denny, Alela Diane, Nancy K. Dillon, Eliesha Eagle, Penny Flanagan, Paula Frazer, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nina Gerber, Patty Griffen, Alina Estelle Hardin, Sarah Harmer, Shannon Heaton (Matt & Shannon Heaton), Caroline Herring, Lara Herscovitch, Meg Hutchinson, Donna Hughes, Marketa Irglova, Diana Jones, Lucy Kaplansky, Rachel Loshak, Shannon Karen, Dolores Keane, Sonya Kitchell, Patty Larkin, Holly Long, Claire Lynch, Fiona MacKenzie, Elenor McEvoy, Nellie McKay, Mary-Kathryn, Natalie Merchant, Diana Nagy, Carrie Newcomer, Keri Noble, Flo Paris, Victoria Parks, Karine Polwart, Regina Spektor, Vicki Randle, Mae Robertson, Keri Noble, Kate Rusby, Brenda Russell, Cathie Ryan, Jenny Scheinman, Becky Schlegel, Judee Sill, Emily Singleton, Heidi Talbot, Rosie Thomas, Ashley Brooke Toussant, Rhonda Vincent, Beth Waters, Gillian Welch, Corinne West, Cheryl Wheeler, Karyn White, Dar Williams, Linda Williams, Anna Wolf, and Kate Wolf.
Plus the female-lead bands Azure Ray, Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan), The Cottars, Dust Poets, Evanescence, Gypsy Soul, The Knitters, Nathan, Po' Girl, Rhythm Angels, Storyhill, The Rankin Family, Within Temptation, etc.

By the way, I found many of these wonderful new talents on Folk Alley. Check 'em out!

Country singers:
Iris DeMent, Holly Dunn, Sara Evans, Mary Gauthier, Crystal Gayle, Nanci Griffith, Elana James, Laurie Lewis, Loretta Lynn, Kathy Mattea, Martina McBride, JoDee Messina, Dolly Parton, Leann Rhimes, Jesse Sykes, Donna Ulisse, Adrienne Young, and others.
Plus the Country/Bluegrass bands A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Mountain Heart, Nickle Creek, Norman and Nancy Blake, and Polecat Creek.

Pop hits:
(A handful of songs apiece from) Abba, Tori Amos, Joan Baez, Bangles, Shawn Colvin, Julee Cruise, Lisa Gerrard, Indigo Girls, Ivy, Chantal Kreviazuk, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Katie Melua, Joni Mitchell, Alannah Myles, Christina Perri, Linda Ronstadt, Suzanne Vega, Kate Voegele, etc.

Big Band sound too modern for you?
Two-girl Flappers revival: The Ditty Bops

Frances Black, Mary Black, Karan Casey, Enya, Mary Fahl, Belinda "Bill" Jones, Sharron Kraus, Loreena McKennitt, and Cathie Ryan; plus the female-lead bands Alathea, Altan, Anuna, Celtic Woman, Deanta, Iona, Solas, etc.

BarlowGirl, Vicki Beeching, Cynthia Clawson, Misty Edwards, Kari Jobe, Brian and Jenn Johnson, Kim Hill, Nightnoise, Plumb, etc.

Native American:
Joanne Shenandoah

Early American songs (and instruments):
The Trail Band

Jenny Lin, Garnet Rogers, Lynn Saoirse, Jami Sieber

Plus a few guys and their bands!
Philip Aaberg, Charlie Daniels, Commander Cody, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Five for Fighting, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Simon & Garfunkle, Lee Greenwood, Arlo Guthrie, Ray Lynch, Don McLean, Vangelis, Russell Watson, Brooks Williams, etc.

I've not mentioned some "on everyone's list" major bands and pop singers (plus show tunes, etc.), past and present. In any case, I often don't care for most of their songs. For example, I've liked the Beatles from the first time I heard them, on the Ed Sullivan Show, but have never cared for the Rolling Stones.

If any one of these artists, living (or in some cases, otherwise), doesn't have a web site, and probably some review and fan sites, I'd be awfully surprised. No links from here, as yet, but it's a moment's work to search via their names.

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