The slow crawl toward gender parity on the radio needs to include support from country's top male artists to reach a walk or slow trot. While singers like Blake Shelton have done their part in the past, Keith Urban is quietly becoming the new champion of country females.

Urban has started spotlighting the rising women of country music during performances of his song "We Were Us." Lauren Alaina and RaeLynn are two he's celebrated on stage and social media. Brooke Eden and more recently Lindsay Ell also got the chance to share a stage with the country music headliner.

"We Were Us" is his 2013 duet with Miranda Lambert. In her absence, he used to work with local radio stations to find local, unsigned talent to join him. "Everything Is Texas" singer and #LetTheGirlsPlay artist Kasey Tyndall practically started her career that way when she was chosen for a show in Raleigh, N.C.

Within the last month he's invited female artists at festivals he's played to join him. One could argue it was just a matter of convenience, except that afterward, Urban takes time to praise them on social media. Exposure to his nearly 4 million Twitter followers is a big deal to someone like Eden, who has 13,000 of her own.

His recent support of women of country music goes beyond this song, however. Urban went out of his way to say how much he enjoyed the title track from Kelsea Ballerini's next album. He shared country group Delta Rae's cover of "The Fighter." Former labelmate Emily West has a new EP called Symphonies out. Wanna guess who tweeted about it?

Few men have strayed from the top female vocalists of all time in search of a duet partner in recent years. Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town singer Karen Fairchild are popular picks, but with only five women on the current country airplay chart one wonders when and how the anger over the lack of women on the radio will turn to action. Perhaps now. The next step for Urban would be to feature a young female newcomer on an album, or even a single.

Urban with guest vocals by Mickey Guyton? That sounds like a Grammy waiting to happen.

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