My journey to rediscover country music continues! A modern country sound that honors the roots of the genre, The Highwomen is a unique gift to today’s country music. If you like or have liked country music but are looking for something fresh – or you prefer Outlaw Country to Bro Country or Boyfriend Country – this might be a good album for you.
Now, if you’re a longtime country fan, you’ve probably already guessed that this group was inspired by the legendary Highwaymen, composed of Outlaw Country Superstars – Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson. The idea was Amanda Shires’, who wanted to bring together a female supergroup partly to combat the low representation of women’s voices in country music radio and festivals. She connected then with Brandi Carlile and Maren Morris, originally intending to leave the fourth spot open for guest collaborators. When the group debuted in 2019, at Loretta Lynn’s 87th birthday concert, Natalie Hemby was officially announced as the fourth member. The album came out later the same year.
What I really liked about this album was the stories that it told, stories that I haven’t heard a lot in my country listening. Now, I like a good “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” song as much as anybody else (Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood, anyone?) but it sure seems like a lot of what makes country music (or most music, honestly) popular is the same story – boy meets girl (Hurt Somebody by Dierks Bentley), boy chases girl (She’s a Girl Ain’t She by Rodney Atkins), the bliss of love (Heaven by Kane Brown), boy wrongs girl or vice versa (Jolene by Dolly Parton, I Hope It Rains by Jana Kramer), messy heartache ensues (Burning House by Cam), both move on (Red High Heels by Kellie Pickler, Bartender by Lady A). And if it’s not that story, it’s the Living In The Country is a Real Good Time story (Where I Come From by Montgomery Gentry, Mud on the Tires by Brad Paisley, Meanwhile Back at Mama’s by Tim McGraw, etc. etc.). Both are good, but repetitive after a while.
The Highwomen sing a new slate of relatable messages – in this album we hear the voices of women wronged by history/society (Highwomen), the struggles and joys of being women (Old Soul, Redesigning Women), a daughter facing the death of her father (Cocktail and a Song), various reasons not to be a mother (My Name Can’t Be Mama), an homage to suburban moms (My Only Child) and, my personal favorite, Heaven is a Honkytonk, which is a very Willie-Nelson-esque homage to country music legends who have passed on. And of course, thrown in are a few romantic journeys including post-breakup Don’t Call Me and the both relatable and subversive If She Ever Leaves Me. The latter is particularly a gem, because it portrays love between women in a positive and unexpected way.
If you missed this album when it first came out and love a modern twist on classic genres, get your country on with The Highwomen.