County music has a diversity problem. Only around 10 percent of Billboard’s top 60 country songs in 2017 were by women, according to PBS NewsHour.
But that looks ready to change with the debut of The Highwomen, a country supergroup comprised of Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby and Maren Morris.
Maren Morris may be the only name you recognize, but don’t let that deter you from listening to this group.
Brandi Carlile has released seven albums — the most recent in “By The Way, I Forgive You” earning her six Grammy nominations and three wins. Amanda Shires has released six solo albums and Natalie Hemby has written five No. 1 Billboard singles as a songwriter for Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town, among others.
Inspired by The Highwaymen, an all male country supergroup comprised of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, The Highwomen released their self-titled debut album on Sept. 6.
And I can tell you right now, this group is worth listening to.
As someone who isn’t super interested in country music with the exception of the Dixie Chicks and Kacey Musgraves, I didn’t really know what to expect when I began listening to The Highwomen’s debut album.
But this album is well-rounded and brings new perspectives to the male-dominated country music scene.
One of the most impactful songs on the album is also called “Highwomen” and it tells the stories of strong and brave women, beginning with Carlile singing about a woman fleeing violence in Honduras.
This song is an adaptation of The Highwaymen’s song “Highwaymen,” flipping it on its head.
A healer and a female preacher are what the other Highwomen sing about and country singer Yola joins the group to sing about a freedom rider in 1961. This song is quietly impactful, telling the stories of these women without being too much. The message doesn’t hit you over the head and it is perfect for this group to have this as their signature song.
This album also has a lot of range. Every song comes with a different message but they all come together to make this album great.
Another thing that makes this album great are the new perspectives — which really shine through in the songs “If She Ever Leaves Me,” “My Name Can’t Be Mama ,” and “My Only Child” — a gay love song and two songs about motherhood, respectively.
It’s so nice to hear music that isn’t written and created solely by white men, to be honest. The songs of The Highwomen are fresh, beautiful and complex, all at the same time.
“Redesigning Women” is another song that speaks to everything women have to juggle at any given time — family, a job, errands, making dinner and keeping things running smoothly. The first few lyrics deftly sums up what pretty much every woman does — “Full-time living on a half-time schedule/ Always trying to make everyone feel special.”
This album feels inviting and that mood is never more clear than in “Crowded Table” with the chorus of “I want a house with a crowded table/And a place by the fire for everyone/Let us take on the world while we’re young and able/And bring us back together when the day is done.”
Speaking to the range of this album, songs like “Old Soul” and “Don’t Call Me” are about feeling old beyond your years and dealing with an ex that just won’t go away – both topics many women are well-versed in.
The Highwomen are thoughtful and creative, which that is clear with the songs “Heaven is a Honky Tonk” and “Wheels of Laredo” — the former is a reworking of Ray LaMontague’s version and the latter is the group’s version of Tanya Tucker’s — which appears on her new album “While I’m Livin.’”
Whether you are new to country music — like I am — or if you’ve been listening to country music all your life, don’t sleep on The Highwomen. With their combined talents and perspectives, this group deserves to be listened to.
Feature Image: Courtesy Facebook