The Highwomen: The Highwomen

Album Review BY BRIAN MCGRATH

In the Highwomen’s self-titled debut, the foursome, comprised of Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby, take back country to shed light on perspectives that were missed in songs past. The 12-track LP transports you to the world of classic country, recalling artists such as Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. But instead of taking stances such as Wynette’s in “Stand by Your Man,” the Highwomen bring a more nuanced side to the conversation. In the title track, stories of the deceased ring out—an immigrant from Honduras who passed away during her journey, a healer hung in Salem after being accused of being a witch, a Freedom Rider who was killed on her journey bound for Mississippi, a female preacher who was told she shouldn’t teach. The stories are told in first person by the women, with the added help of English artist Yola and Grammy-winning Sheryl Crow. Shires’ crying violin brings texture throughout. While the album seeks to redefine women’s roles within the genre, it does so delicately. There’s no rejection of motherhood; instead, its complexity is highlighted. In “My Name Can’t Be Mama,” the group recognize days (like the morning-after hangover) when they need a break from being motherly. In “Redesigning Women,” the group emphasizes their varying parts—“Runnin’ the world while we’re cleanin’ up the kitchen / Makin’ bank, shakin’ hands, drivin’ 80 / Tryin’ to get home just to feed the baby.” The album features expert instrumentation, tight harmonies and ringing vocals, but it’s unafraid to challenge the genre’s norms and shortcomings in a way that’s nonabrasive. They’re not looking to uproot a genre that influenced them as artists. Rather, they’d prefer to add to the narrative and open country’s doors a bit wider.

The Highwomen
The Highwomen
Elektra