The Highwomen (album)
The Highwomen is the eponymous debut studio album by country music supergroup the Highwomen, made up of band members Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires. It was released on September 6, 2019, by Elektra Records.
|Studio album by|
|Released||September 6, 2019|
|Singles from The Highwomen|
In 2016, when Shires was finishing her record, My Piece of Land, in music producer Dave Cobb's studio, Shires had an idea to create a female country supergroup in homage to the legendary Highwaymen (consisting of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson). At the same time, the lack of representation of female artists on country radio and at country music festivals had been publicly discussed by many journalists like Marissa Moss. While on tour in her van, Shires kept a running list of artists while listening to country radio, and noticed that there were very few women. When she called to request they play more female artists, she was directed to a Facebook page lottery system. Cobb recommended Shires call Carlile, who she didn't know. Carlile thought it would be fun, and would be an interesting creative project.
The Highwomen project was widely hinted at by Carlile, Morris and Shires before it was officially announced on April 6, 2019. The Highwomen had originally intended to leave the fourth spot in their line-up vacant to allow other female collaborators to join them, with Chely Wright, Courtney Marie Andrews, Margo Price, Janelle Monáe, and Sheryl Crow mentioned as potential guests. The band, who jokingly refer to the collaboration as a pirate ship experience, said that they see the project as an incubator project that highlights mentorship and support of fellow women artists.
The group made their live debut on April 1, 2019, at Loretta Lynn's 87th birthday concert held at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. There, Natalie Hemby was officially revealed as the final member and the quartet performed "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels".
Release and promotionEdit
The album was officially announced on July 19, 2019, with the release of the album's first single, "Redesigning Women", along with the album's pre-order. The music video for "Redesigning Women" was released the same day. The promotional single, "Crowded Table", was released on July 26. On July 30, the Highwomen appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon where they performed "Redesigning Women" and "Crowded Table". In July 2019, the Highwomen performed their first ever full live set at the 60th annual Newport Folk Festival, previewing songs from their upcoming album. The third and final promotional single "Highwomen", was released on August 13.
The album opens with "Highwomen", a re-written version of the Jimmy Webb penned classic, "Highwayman". The song was re-written by band members Brandi Carlile and Amanda Shires with Webb's blessing. Together they created the story of the band in classic response-song style. The song tells the story of how women throughout history have often sacrificed themselves for something greater. The four women in the song are an immigrant, a healer, a freedom rider, and a preacher. It features guest vocals from Yola and background vocals from Sheryl Crow. The album's second track, and lead single, is "Redesigning Women". It was written by band member Natalie Hemby with Rodney Clawson. Rolling Stone said that the song "puts a woman’s experience front and center, with just enough punch to make it smart, self-deprecating, and sarcastic all at once." The third track, "Loose Change", written by band member Maren Morris with Maggie Chapman and Daniel Layus of the band Augustana, is filled with clever wordplay and a heavy dose of Texas swagger. "Crowded Table", the fourth track and second single, was written by band members Hemby and Carlile with Lori McKenna. Rolling Stone called the song the band's mission statement and said it's about "looking for a world where everyone is given a chance to fit in. This isn’t about leaning in or fighting for the top chair. It’s about making room."
Track five, "My Name Can't Be Mama" was written by Carlile, Morris, and Shires. An inclusive song about motherhood and parenting, it is equal parts funny and potent. The three women in the song all have their own definition of being a mother and each have their own reason for why they need a break. For Carlile, it's a hard morning after a night of no sleep; for Shires, it's trying to find a career; and for Morris, it's a break from society's expectation to have children by a certain age. "If She Ever Leaves Me", the album's sixth track, was written by band member Amanda Shires with her husband Jason Isbell and Chris Thompkins. Isbell said that he came up with the idea while exercising and realized that if Carlile sang it they could have a singular "gay country song" moment. Rolling Stone called it "a love song that transcends sexuality while not ignoring it."
Track seven, "Old Soul", penned by Morris with Luke Dick and Laura Veltz, is an intimate look at the burdens of having to grow up too fast. The eighth track, "Don't Call Me", written by Shires and Peter Levin, is a reminder to not pick up the phone the next time an ex calls. "My Only Child", the album's ninth track, was written by members Hemby and Shires with Miranda Lambert. It is about the love a mother has for her child and her disappointment that her family ended up smaller than she had once dreamed it would. The album's tenth track, "Heaven Is a Honky Tonk", was written by members Carlile and Hemby with Ray LaMontagne, and features Sheryl Crow and background vocals by Yola. Track eleven, "Cocktail and a Song", is a solo composition from Shires about mortality and life's inevitabilities. The album closes with "The Wheels of Laredo", a song written by Carlile with Tim and Phil Hanseroth for Tanya Tucker's 2019 album, While I'm Livin'.
|Consequence of Sound||B+|
The album received mostly positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received a weighted average score of 80 based on 13 reviews.
Chris Willman from Variety called the album an "instant classic," and went on to say that "the all-star foursome has put together an album full of high comedy and high pathos, zingy group-sings and gut-wreching solo turns, wryness and rue, and harmony co-existing with this strange and nearly forgotten thing called twang." Laura Stanley at Exclaim! gave the album an 8 out of 10, and said the album "is both a call for change and a celebration of women in country music." Writing for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album four out of five stars and said, "The record's resonance lies in its deep emotions and sense of craft. The craft isn't incidental, either. Their shared skills as writers and singers provide the supporting evidence to Shires' conceptual thesis: if country radio doesn't want to play music this good, what's the point of radio anyway?" Will Hermes from Rolling Stone gave the album four out of five stars. His review said,"What’s most impressive about The Highwomen, handsomely produced with Nashville neoclassicist Dave Cobb, is how artfully, and matter-of-factly, it engages social issues. Credit the concentration of songwriting talent. Every woman here is at the top of her game." The album received seven out of ten stars from Chris Conaton at PopMatters who said, "They're having a lot of fun, but the specifically feminist bent of the group's outlook helps focus the album as well. The Highwomen is worth a listen for any fans of these artists individually or as a sampler for all of them."
Seth Wilson from Slant Magazine gave the album three and a half out of five stars. He praised the album's title track, calling it "a powerful and succinct recalibration of Jimmy Webb’s "The Highwayman". The album received three and a half out of five stars from Hal Horowitz at American Songwriter. He said the album is "generally more subdued than the Lambert-led Pistol Annies and less groundbreaking than Trio. It would have helped if all four women participated in every performance since at least one is MIA on the majority of tunes." He criticized Dave Cobb's production, calling it "professional" but "also a little dry." In a review for Glide Magazine, Jim Hynes said the album "has its strong moments and it does carry a strong mission. Yet, its ambitious and inclusive scope creates an enormity that somewhat weighs it down." In a mixed review for The Guardian, Michael Hann gave the album three out of five stars and said, "Four voices aren’t always stronger than one, and the collegiate nature of the record leaves one yearning for a little more single-mindedness." Nicholas Hautman from Us Weekly gave the album four stars and called it an "instant classic."
|Billboard||Top 50 Albums of 2019||8|
|Entertainment Weekly||Top 10 Albums of 2019||4|
|Rolling Stone||Top 100 of Albums of 2010s||77|
|Us Weekly||Top 10 Albums of 2019||5|
The Highwomen debuted at number 10 on the US Billboard 200 with 34,000 album-equivalent units, including 29,000 pure album sales. It sold 8,100 copies in the second week. It has sold 86,100 copies in the United States in the United States as of March 2020.
|1.||"Highwomen" (featuring Yola)||3:32|
|5.||"My Name Can't Be Mama"||2:30|
|6.||"If She Ever Leaves Me"||Carlile||3:13|
|8.||"Don't Call Me"||3:36|
|9.||"My Only Child"||Hemby||3:53|
|10.||"Heaven Is a Honky Tonk" (featuring Sheryl Crow)||3:54|
|11.||"Cocktail and a Song"||Shires||Shires||3:37|
|12.||"Wheels of Laredo"||Carlile||4:14|
Adapted from the album liner notes.
- Brandi Carlile – lead vocals, background vocals, acoustic guitar, piano
- Natalie Hemby – lead vocals, background vocals
- Maren Morris – lead vocals, background vocals
- Amanda Shires – lead vocals, background vocals, violin
- Dave Cobb – producer, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
- Phil Hanseroth – background vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, percussion, tictac bass
- Tim Hanseroth – background vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
- Jason Isbell – acoustic guitar, electric guitar
- Peter Levin – keyboards, Mellotron, piano, strings, Wurlitzer
- Chris Powell – drums, percussion
- Daniel Bacigalupi – mastering assistant
- Brandon Bell – engineering
- Nicki Fletcher – graphic design
- Alysse Gafkjen – photography
- Tony Hulbert – engineering assistant
- Gena Johnson – engineering assistant
- Colin Lott – engineering assistant
- Pete Lyman – mastering
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- Currin, Grayson Haver (September 18, 2019). "The Highwomen: The Highwomen Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
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- Hermes, Will (August 29, 2019). "The Highwomen Write Their Own History on Superb Debut Album". Rolling Stone.
- Wilson, Seth (September 6, 2019). "Review: The Highwomen's Debut Subverts Tradition to Deliver Its Feminist Message". Slant Magazine.
- Hautman, Nicholas (September 6, 2019). "The Highwomen Are 'Resilient' on 'Chill-Inducing' Debut Album: Review". Us Weekly.
- Willman, Chris (September 6, 2019). "Redesigning the Sisterhood: The Highwomen on Making the Best Country Album in Years". Variety. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
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- "The 50 Best Albums of 2019". Billboard. December 10, 2019. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Rodman, Sarah (December 17, 2019). "The Best Albums of 2019". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Dolan, Jon (December 3, 2019). "100 Best Albums of the 2010s". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Hautman, Nicholas (December 12, 2019). "10 Best Albums of 2019". Us Weekly. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Caulfield, Keith (September 15, 2019). "Post Malone Scores Second No. 1 Album on Billboard 200 With 'Hollywood's Bleeding'". Billboard. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
- Bjorke, Matt (September 25, 2019). "Top 10 Country Album Sales Chart: September 25, 2019". Roughstock. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
- Bjorke, Matt (March 10, 2020). "Top 10 Country Albums Pure Sales Chart: March 9, 2020". RoughStock. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
- The Highwomen (booklet). The Highwomen. Elektra. 2019. 2 651748.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "ARIA Australian Top 50 Digital Albums" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. September 16, 2019. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
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