Photo Courtesy of CMT
Story by Liz Juengling/Contributing Writer
The Country supergroup The Highwomen released their highly anticipated, self-titled debut album on Sept. 6.
The group includes female powerhouses Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby. They joined with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb, who produced the entire record. The group released the album on Elektra Records.
Shires brought the four successful women together to pay homage to Outlaw Country supergroup, The Highwaymen. The Highwaymen included Country music legends Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.
“Highwomen” is melodically identical to the Highwaymen’s title track. The message, however, is very different. “Highwayman” shows strength through the mention of sailors and builders, while “Highwomen” describes independent women combating social injustices.
The title track, featuring up-and-coming artist Yola, alludes to freedom riders, the Salem Witch Trials, and the current political issue of migrants. The raw and powerful lyrics are highlighted by beautiful harmonies and ethereal instrumentals.
Similarly, the debut single, “Redesigning Women,” captures the purpose of the group. The strong guitar riff at the beginning of the song and group harmonies set the powerful tone. When Carlile was asked about the song in an interview with Apple Music, she said, “It’s a celebration of everything about us [women] that makes us funny and powerful and who we are.”
The album has recurring themes of family, specifically in “Crowded Table” and “My Only Child.” “Crowded Table” uses beautiful harmonies from all of the members to trace the creation of family, traditions, and an all-inclusive environment. “My Only Child,” co-written by Shires, Hemby and Miranda Lambert, is a beautifully nostalgic song about the joys of motherhood and the love only a mother and child can share.
Arguably, the most iconic song of the record in terms of writing is “If She Ever Leaves Me.” This track was written by Shires and her grammy-winning husband Jason Isbell. It is a beautiful song about LGBTQ+ relationships featuring Carlile, a lesbian artist and LGBTQ+ activist.
At the 2019 Newport Folk Festival Isbell said, “Initially I thought this song would be one of heterosexual country love. And then one day … it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, Brandi Carlile would sing this song, and it could be a gay country song.”
While all four women excelled on this record, Maren Morris had the most surprising performance. She proved that behind her flashy costumes and youthful appearance, she really is an “old soul.”
“Don’t Call Me” features Shires writing skills through playful lyrics about standing her ground to a dependent man. She ends the track with a hilariously facetious monologue listing all the people her ex-man could be calling instead of her, like “1-800-GO-TO-HELL” or “[his] lawyer, if [he] can afford one.”
There is a little something for everyone on The Highwomen’s self-titled album. “My Name Can’t Be Mama” has Honky-Tonk vibes and some yodeling, while “Cocktail and a Song” has reverb and solemn ballad qualities.
These four ladies were able to use humor, sarcasm, vulnerability and love to showcase the true power and worth of women.
Overall, this album is a huge step for women in the music industry. Many female artists in mainstream media are put in competition with each other in ways that male artists are not. Shires, Carlile, Hemby and Morris prove that all women in the industry are equally valid through their union as The Highwomen.
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