The Highwomen is a project that was inspired by generations past and a lack of females getting played on country radio.
For those that don’t know, The Highwaymen was a super group that included Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. Country singer Amanda Shires was finishing up her solo album a few years ago and got the idea to form a super group of her own, the same way the four legends decades ago did. Feeling even more inspired by the lack of women on country radio, it became a passion project.
Shires was put in contact with Brandi Carlile who was instantly on board. Soon after Maren Morris was added. Initial plans were to rotate a different female singer in the fourth spot, but Natalie Hemby became the group’s fourth.
Maren Morris is the star power behind this group. Even though she doesn’t carry lead vocals on many songs, I think it’s fair to say that without her included chances are this project receives way less buzz and attention
The songs and the sound from this group isn’t for everyone. If you’re a fan of what modern country music is right now in this day and age, it’s going to be hard to listen to. However, even if that’s the case you have to appreciate the way they honor previous generations with the traditional harmonies and musical elements.
The cool part of this album is that the vocals were recorded live along with a live band that was in the studio. It makes the entire project sound so much more authentic. Each of the band members receive multiple songwriting credits but they also got help from some big names from the likes of Lori McKenna, Miranda Lambert, Jason Isbell, and Rodney Clawson.
The group tackles everything on the album from girl power, ignoring traditional gender roles, heartbreak, falling in love, motherhood, and everything in between.
The album starts off with the title track which gives the sound of a wild west traveling type of sound. “Redesigning Women” is the girl anthem that celebrates that women truly are capable of running the world as many are.
“Loose Change” features Maren on lead vocals as she sings about being taken for granted by a man that features very clever lyrics with “I’m gonna be somebody’s lucky penny someday, instead of rollin’ ’round in your pocket like loose change.”
“Crowded Table” is equal parts a call for women to support other women, with a larger message of tolerating peoples differences and simply get along. “My Name Can’t Be Mama” and “My Only Child” are two completely different songs as the former is about a woman who doesn’t want to be defined by motherhood while the latter is lyrically one of the best songs on the album as it’s from the perspective of a mother’s love for her child.
“If She Ever Leaves Me” is truly one of the more beautifully sounding sounds on the album about a woman singing about loving another woman; a bit of a taboo subject especially in country music, but Brandi absolutely delivers.
“Old Soul” and “Don’t Call Me” are also complete opposites. “Old Soul” is about what one would think – being young, but having an old soul that never breaks rules and stays in her predetermined lane while “Don’t Call Me” is a woman’s self-confidence in not going back to a love that did her wrong.
“Heaven Is a Honky Tonk” is a song that is a tip of the hat while honoring the generations of country artists that came before. With the album being inspired by The Highwaymen, this is a nice way to honor them. The most somber song on the project is “Cocktail And A Song” that describes a final conversation between a father and daughter. The album wraps up with a bit of an odd one in “Wheels of Laredo.” To each their own in finding the hidden meaning, but we’re going with the story of someone being stuck in a city miles away from who they love.
This was a pretty cool project. Chances are, none of the songs will have any major radio success but I think the four in the band don’t mind. They got together and created a great collection of songs and made damn good music. We’ll be curious to see how often they reunite in the years going forward to make even more music or perform together.