The Highwomen

The Highwomen

In the 1980s, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson came together to record as The Highwaymen, one of the most successful supergroups in country music history. Now, like the Pistol Annies before them, four of the genre’s most powerful women—Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby, and Amanda Shires—grab the torch. Their name is more than a play on words: “[The men] were able to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other as equals,” Brandi Carlile tells Apple Music’s Brooke Reese. “This is a difficult time for women to do that because there are so few spaces for us on country radio, and in the industry in general, so we thought, ‘Why can’t we form a straight line? A shoulder-to-shoulder women’s country group?’” Their eponymous debut album puts female stories front and center—mothers, daughters, witches, lesbians, cowgirls, and more—in a celebration of American women who refuse to choose between success and family, power and love. “Making bank/Shaking hands/Driving 80/Trying to get home just to feed the baby,” they sing on lead single “Redesigning Women,” a toast to ambitious ladies “breaking every Jell-O mold.” But underneath those winking lyrics and warm, absorbing harmonies is a serious message aimed directly at Nashville’s old guard: Hear us. “I want to get in the door, and I want our band to get played on country radio,” Shires says. “And once we get in the door, I want to hold it open.” The songs here are daringly vulnerable (“Old Soul”), tough (“Don’t Call Me," “Loose Change”), and, at their core, unifying. The album standout “Crowded Table” calls for a more inclusive world: “If we want a garden/We’re gonna have to sow the seeds,” they sing in unison. “Plant a little happiness/Let the roots run deep.”

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