Explanation Owed on Why Highwomen Disinvited Mickey Guyton
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, country music—like many American institutions—has been experiencing a reckoning and re-evaluation of certain moments in the past that are being characterized as racist or racially insensitive in a host of reports, think pieces, and social media posts from prominent individuals. But as instances and examples are dredged up from sometimes 70 years or more in the past to prove these accusations of systemic racism in country music, a situation involving current artists in the present tense excluding a black artist is unfolding, and very curiously, no explanations are being called for, no reprimand is occurring, and the media is being curiously silent on the matter.
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It was January 9th, 2019, and while talking with 91.9 WFPK ahead of a performance at the radio station’s Winter Wednesday presentation in Louisville, Kentucky, fiddle player and songwriter Amanda Shires let slip a seductive piece of information that was taken as a bombshell in country music and beyond. Amanda Shires was starting an all-female country music supergroup with Brandi Carlile.
“We’ve got a new group called the Highwomen coming up—as in exalted, not stoned. I mean I’m sure being stoned is fine depending on where you are and all of that. I’m not advocating anything, or un-advocating anything. Anyway, we’re recording it in March,” Amanda Shires said.
Shires tried to stop herself in the interview from sharing the information, playing out an internal dialogue publicly that it was probably too early to be talking about the upcoming project. She also misspoke initially, saying that Margo Price was to be part of the group, when the eventual lineup didn’t include Price, but country pop superstar Maren Morris, and renown songwriter Natalie Hemby. Shires explained how she had met Brandi Carlile on the annual Americana-themed Cayamo Cruise, and launched the idea hanging out at The Basement in Nashville.
Within hours, and without any press release or media push, the news was all over the place, with outlets running breathless stories, and fans from Americana to country and beyond salivating over the possibilities of what The Highwomen may have in store. Without even hearing a single piece of music, The Highwomen had become a phenomenon.
The group recorded their debut, self-titled album in March with producer Dave Cobb in Nashville, and made their first public appearance on April 1st at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena as part of a tribute to Loretta Lynn. This is where Natalie Hemby was officially introduced as the band’s fourth member. But from the very beginning, even during that first revelation by Amanda Shires, the principle members of The Highwomen made it known that this wasn’t just about them. It was about all the women of country music who had been systemically downgraded and overlooked in country in recent history due to the rise of Bro-Country, and the fall of representation for women on radio.
This idea of inclusivity was underscored when the foursome set out to record the video for their first single “Redesigning Women” in early July of 2019. The concept of the video was to have the four Highwomen arrive in the middle of a field on a fire truck, dressed in full firemen regalia, and after piling together items symbolic of female gender roles and domesticity, they set them ablaze, emblematically incinerating female norms and stereotypes.
Right before the bonfire ensues, a second truck shows up with a wide representation of women from country music, once again emphasizing how The Highwomen is not just about the supergroup’s principle members, but all country women. The second group included Lauren Alaina, Kassi Ashton, Cam, Lilly Hiatt, Wynonna Judd, Catie Offerman, Cassadee Pope, Erin Rae, RaeLynn, Natalie Stovall, Tanya Tucker, Anna Vaus, and Hailey Whitters.
This was a fairly wide ranging group of country music women, including a couple of legends, some performers from the mainstream, and some from the independent country/Americana realm. However what it didn’t include was any artists of color. As these women were “redesigining” what it meant to be a woman in country music, minority representation was completely left out of the recipe.
Granted, there is no reason to believe this decision was made on purpose to be exclusionary to minorities. The simple truth is that when you go looking for minority women in country music, they’re quite hard to find, which is a problem in itself, and not one The Highwomen deserve to shoulder exclusively. However there are a few black women who do make a living in country music, and one who was originally scheduled to be there. But for a still unexplained reason, she was disinvited from the video shoot last minute, even after flying across the country from Los Angeles to be a part of the production.
In the wake of the George Floyd murder and the impending riots and protests, country artist Mickey Guyton became a focal point of media coverage as one of the few black women in the mainstream of country. She was subsequently asked to write an op/ed for Billboard about her experiences in country music, and how the country music community could improve to help artists of color. In the column, the most shocking revelation was not some systemic racism she had experienced in the country genre at some point. It was how she had been excluded and snubbed by her fellow women in the genre.
“I’ve gone to all the girl parties full of wine, ring light selfie booths, white female country singers and writers talking about ongoing projects and music they are putting out,” Mickey Guyton wrote. “On one occasion, I left my ailing husband, who almost died from sepsis, in California just four days after his life-saving surgery because I had been invited to be a part of a female empowerment music video full of these same women. I arrived at the airport exhausted but excited. I checked my itinerary only to find that the entry had been deleted; I had been disinvited. The song was about supporting women in country, yet they disinvited the only charting African American woman in country music. Do they know? Don’t they see that I support them? Do they care? Do they want to see me? The answer is no. Let that sink in.”
Though Mickey Guyton didn’t name The Highwomen or the “Redesigning Women” video shoot as the offending party at the time, it soon became evident this is what she was referring to. However even though Mickey Guyton’s column was posted now over a week ago, no public explanation from The Highwomen or anyone else has been made as to why Mickey Guyton was disinvited, or what specifically happened to where she didn’t feel welcome to attend a video shoot she had flown across the country to be a part of. And if Mickey Guyton wasn’t there, why no women of color were involved.
To the credit of Maren Morris, she has addressed the situation indirectly on Twitter, and confirmed that Guyton was supposed to be part of the video shoot, but only as a response to a fan’s question, and with little detail about what happened.
“I’ve known Mickey Guyton since I moved to Nashville and she’s always had a heart of gold and a voice with such conviction,” Maren Morris first said on Twitter. “She released her single ‘Black Like Me’ recently and I hope our friends at country radio give it the air time it deserves.”
Then when Maren was asked by a fan to comment about the Mickey Guyton situation specifically, Morris responded, “We were notified of this yesterday + were completely mortified that such a giant miscommunication occurred under our watch at the shoot that day & have each reached out to Mickey privately with the utmost respect & apologies. It shouldn’t have happened & isn’t what we stand for.”
However neither Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, nor The Highwomen collectively have addressed the issue publicly, or directly. We still don’t know why Mickey Guyton felt she was “disinvited” from the shoot, whether it was the fault of “a giant miscommunication” or otherwise. If there is a simple explanation such as a logistical snafu made by a staffer, that’s fine and forgivable. But if this is the case, why haven’t they shared it? Saving Country Music has reached out to The Highwomen camp for an explanation or statement, and those requests have gone unanswered. Requests were also sent to the Mickey Guyton camp for clarification, and they’ve also not been returned.
Even just as concerning as the situation Mickey Guyton experienced is how the media seems to be giving The Highwomen and this story a pass. Billboard’s Melinda Newman is the only other journalist to cover this story, while any other perceived slight against black performers in country music is being dredged up by a wide swath of reporters and outlets in the wake of the George Floyd killing, and performers are being being commanded to pledge support for Black Lives Matter, or risk being ostracized, with a spreadsheet being circulated with the names of performers who haven’t complied.
The author of the spreadsheet, journalist and publicist Lorie Liebig, has said nothing on the matter. Nor have any of the other blue-checkmarked journalists who have created a an environment of fear and compliance surrounding thought and dialogue in country media recently, directly tied to political ideology where you will be ostracized if you do not hold prevailing views. The members of The Highwomen are marked as compliant on the spreadsheet, while artists who may have not posted a black square to social media on June 2nd’s “Blackout Tuesday,” but have collaborated with black artists or released anti-racists songs are somehow seen to be delinquent—artists such as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Eric Church, and Garth Brooks. Brooks just released another song in the response to the George Floyd killing calling for unity and acceptance titled “We Belong To Each Other.”
Amanda Shires was one of the performers who shared the “Accountability” spreadsheet. She’s also been emphatically denouncing anyone for not speaking out for black performers. As has Maren Morris, and Brandi Carlile. Shires posted on Twitter on June 5th, “Wtf? How have I missed Mickey Guyton? Oh, because country music is a white boy club.” This means that despite all the rhetoric for inclusivity for women and minorities in country music, Amanda Shires didn’t even know who Mikey Guyton was until last week.
What makes this situation surrounding The Highwomen and the Mickey Guyton disinvitation so disturbing is that The Highwomen are regularly heralded as the top example of the type of progressive values country music needs, and are regularly praised and receive favorable press specifically for their progressive ideology. Meanwhile other performers are regularly criticized for not doing enough when it comes to addressing social issues.
Since the release of The Highwomen’s self-titled debut album on September 6th, the supergroup has become one of the most critically-acclaimed and highly-covered acts in country music. The record debuted at #1 on the country charts. The Highwomen opened the 2019 CMA Awards in November. They’ve been nominated for Group of the Year by the 2020 ACM Awards. Just this week, they were nominated in three categories for the Americana Music Awards, including Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Duo/Group of the Year. They will also be clear frontrunners for the 2021 Grammy Awards in all country and roots categories.
But does anyone question that if a similar accusation of exuding a black artist from a video shoot after they had flown across the country to participate had been made against most any other country artist it would be considered one of the biggest stories in country music at the moment? This is what happened when Lil Nas X was removed from the country charts. And unlike Lil Nas X, Mickey Guyton is country, and has been working within the genre for half a decade. When the Lil Nas X controversy was raging, one of the concerns was how the emphasis on “Old Town Road” was overshadowing artists such as Mickey Guyton. Amanda Shires had no idea who Mickey Guyton was, and neither did most of the media. Instead, Lil Nas X was portrayed as one of the only hopes to integrate the country genre, while Mickey Guyton and others mired in obscurity.
Most any other artist that isn’t The Highwomen would be ostracized, forced to make a public apology, and risk being cancelled altogether if a similar accusation had been made against them, regardless of what the explanation was, while racism would be the only real explanation in the minds of many of why the offense occurred, fair or not.
The Highwomen are not racist. They collaborated with black British singer Yola on their “Highwomen” theme song, and Yola also performed with them at Newport Folk Fest in 2019. The Highwomen don’t deserve to be cancelled over this matter. But the public does deserve a detailed explanation of what happened to Mickey Guyton, and the media should stop being complicit, and giving them a pass, while impugning other artists who’ve done much more to be inclusive, and to raise voices of color in country, and make up for the mistakes of the genre’s past.
The Highwomen are very popular for the public stances they take on social media for progressive values. But actions speak louder. And the continued silence by The Highwomen and their allies in the media speaks volumes about the hypocrisy permeating the Nashville intellectual set of journalists and performers who believe they are insulated from criticism or accountability simply because of their political beliefs.
June 17, 2020 @ 11:38 am
You are grinding your axe again. It’s unbecoming.
June 17, 2020 @ 12:53 pm
We’re told that silence equals violence. But when you dare break the silence about how an artist or band who’s though of favorably, it’s “grinding an axe” or “unbecoming.” I don’t give a shit what you call it. Listen to Mickey Guyton’s words:
“They disinvited the only charting African American woman in country music. Do they know? Don’t they see that I support them? Do they care? Do they want to see me? The answer is no. Let that sink in.”
That’s what Mickey Guyton said about The Highwomen. Let that sink in. And people turning their heads just because they have a favorable opinion of The Highwomen is unconscionable.
No, I won’t stay silent on this issue. I don’t care how unpopular it is.
June 17, 2020 @ 2:05 pm
I’m not telling you not to complain about something unpopular. The problem here is that you are trying to tie every tangentially related gripe you have into this and it doesn’t all fit factually or logically the way you want it to. As a result it loses focus and ends up sounding like bad faith. You lose credibility and sound like a crank grinding his axe.
Any of the evidence you have presented here including in the above quote is that aside from Maren Morris none of them appeared to know who she was. I didn’t either. Why that’s the case is a subject worth exploring and dedicating many words to. It’s worth asking related questions about how this happened. But this is all over the place with way too much spleen venting and too little thoughtful contemplation.
June 17, 2020 @ 2:34 pm
I would have loved to have written an article with a statement from The Highwomen explaining what happened so we could all move on. Unfortunately, no such statement exists. I reached out to try and obtain one, and those requests were ignored. We know The Highwomen know about the issue, because Maren Morris confirmed they were notified about it. In the absence of a statement or explanation, this article was warranted.
Right now there is a calculation going on in The Highwomen camp, as well as in the minds of some country music journalists who fancy themselves the champions of social causes, and it is solely tied to publicity and public sentiment. The question is if the signal being emitted from Saving Country Music is damaging enough to have to address this issue publicly, or if they can ignore it long enough for it to just go away. This is the same reason some people equate silent with violence. It was important this issue was addressed, and in detail, to continue to the effort to receive answers that are important to the issue of how black performers are treated in country music.
June 18, 2020 @ 7:17 am
And again I don’t blame you for writing an article pushing for some transparency. You have been writing about Mickey Guyton longer than any of the rest of them. You HAD credibility to work from to build a positive case. But you blew it here with petty gripes and bad faith arguments. Liittle Nas ,for example, has fuckall to do with any of this. You pull that in not because you want to make a case for inclusion but because you want to tar your opponents as hypocrites.
In the end this all comes of as petty political positioning on your part.
June 18, 2020 @ 7:46 am
“Liittle Nas ,for example, has fuckall to do with any of this.”
I respectfully disagree. He may not have anything direct to do with this, but when that controversy was raging, my whole assertion was why is the whole music world acting like Lil Nas X is the only black hope for integrating country when we already had artists like Mickey Guyton who had been around for a long time and devoted their entire lives to country, and had never even been allowed to release a debut album? Where was the outrage there? I had been raging about it since 2015, and I’m raging about it now. I’ve been extremely consistent on this issue for over a decade, and my opinions about what happened at The Highwomen photo shoot fit right in line with that.
June 19, 2020 @ 4:18 pm
Did you reach out to Mickey Guyton?
June 19, 2020 @ 4:24 pm
Yes, as stated in the article, I reached out to Mickey Guyton’s team for any information, clarification, statement, interview, and those requests were not responded to.
June 17, 2020 @ 2:59 pm
Tell it Trig.
June 19, 2020 @ 6:48 am
Yes. If someone else wrote this exact article, he would post a rebuttal about how everyone is going crazy.
June 19, 2020 @ 7:38 am
Too much can be made of this issue, I agree. Especially if there is a simple explanation. But the longer time goes on, the stranger it is that explanation hasn’t come.
I think it’s really important everyone look bigger picture at this issue. If people were trying to cancel The Highwomen over it, I probably would come to their defense, if they had a defensible position. But make no mistake about it, if the only real black woman in mainstream country music wrote an op/ed in Billboard about leaving her ailing husband to attend a video shoot across the country and was “disinvited” last minute for a male artist, it would be a major controversy. And it should be, especially with no explanation.
June 17, 2020 @ 11:44 am
As talented as the Highwomen (outside Maren Morris) are, the issue I have had always had with this group is that it felt like it was formed simply as a rebuke of Country Radio and Label Execs, rather than a group being formed simply to create great music.
The Panhandlers feels like a group that formed because 4 artists wanted to work together and had the idea for a concept album. The Highwomen felt like it was done simply as a middle finger from the Alt-Country side (which Morris pretends to be a part of), rather than being 4 artists that had a great idea and wanted to work together.
I say all of that as someone 95% of visitors to SCM would classify as “lefty” on social and economic issues.
June 17, 2020 @ 2:10 pm
Interesting they did call themselves “The Highwomen” not “The Highwaywomen”. That was not a mistake I’m sure. And yeah I think a lot of folks are fed up with corporate and doing things to give it the finger just to give it the finger.
June 17, 2020 @ 11:45 am
Who is Mickey Guyton? Hint: the question is a possible answer. You’re better than this, dude. You really are. I get it, clicks, clicks, clicks.
June 17, 2020 @ 12:55 pm
Nobody writes 27-paragraph articles for “clicks.”
June 17, 2020 @ 1:04 pm
Sorry, didn’t read the wall of text once I got the gist. Long time reader but I’m out for now. Too much sociopolitical drama for a music blog. Adios amigo!
June 17, 2020 @ 2:06 pm
Saving country music is not only writing reviews and supporting independent artists, something that Trigger does brilliantly. It’s also trying to understand why mainstream “country” radios don’t play real country music anymore. This excellent post is part of this work. Trigger gives us facts and information and I agree with him about this surprising silence about the exclusion of Mickey Guiton. The least that The Highwomen can do is give an explanation. If you consider that people who are silent about this exclusion are the same who exclude real country music from mainstream radios, it’s very important to have written this article and it’s important to share it.
June 17, 2020 @ 7:20 pm
“Who is Mickey Guyton?” I personally witnessed Nashville promoting her to big market country radio in 2014, a year before they promoted Chris Lane to big market country radio, and three years before they promoted Maren Morris’ now husband to big market country radio. Just because she didn’t end up with Lane’s career, doesn’t mean the promotion was wrong.
June 17, 2020 @ 11:48 am
I hope everyone else involved in this mess gives Mickey’s single “Black Like Me” a social media plug, like Maren did. It’s the least they could do. The song is terrific and so is her work in general. I had alexa shuffle her entire catalog yesterday and now I’m a big fan.
June 18, 2020 @ 11:08 am
I’m surprised there isn’t a Mickey Guyton video embedded in this article. It would seem more appropriate than the Highwomen video included.
June 17, 2020 @ 12:05 pm
The public doesn’t “deserve” anything, Mickey most certainly does though… She has responded favorably to social media posts by members of Highwomen so maybe she has already gotten an explanation…
June 17, 2020 @ 12:58 pm
Country music and its institutions are currently being demanded by the pubic and the media to answer for offenses often perpetrated decades ago. This happened last year. The reason it’s important to receive an answer is so this never happens to another black artist in country again. That’s the responsibility to country music owes to minority performers.
June 17, 2020 @ 12:20 pm
We would all benefit if Mr. Isbell could remind us how he is so enlightened on these issues. I’m sure he has discussed this with his wife and is crafting a tune so that we will come to understand that it is Trump’s fault!!
June 17, 2020 @ 1:24 pm
I absolutely love how outspoken he is. In general, love that so many artists thought “Dixie Chicks Effect be damned, I’m going to do the right thing and say something this time”. But Isbell just does not have any fucks to give and he gets extra props for that.
June 17, 2020 @ 2:01 pm
“…I’m going to do the right thing and say something this time.”
I took a glance at Isbell’s Twitter and found him responding to people by “doing the right thing” and addressing them as the following:
“ya dumb bastard”
Holy shit, Jason! You were supposed to be on the high road!
June 17, 2020 @ 2:13 pm
Sometimes you fight fire with fire.
Or to quote a teacher I once had some people won’t rise to your level so to fight them you have to go down to their level.
I personally think most “celebrities” mouth off too much. But then again EVERYBODY these days mouths off to much thanks to the internet.
June 18, 2020 @ 12:16 pm
“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference”
“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
June 17, 2020 @ 3:01 pm
The only thing lower than Harold Reid’s voice is Jason Isbell’s IQ.
June 17, 2020 @ 4:30 pm
Yep, and even though I like Isbell’s music, he’s an insufferable prick (and not nearly as smart or as good as he thinks he is).
June 17, 2020 @ 7:30 pm
I walked into a very well-known guitar store in Texas quite a few months ago and picked up a new Martin D18 to strum, because I was in the market for one. I found out it was a Jason Isbell model, and I quickly put it back on the rack and picked another one. I love Martin guitars, but I would never own anything that had “Jason Isbell” attached to it.
James A Floyd
June 18, 2020 @ 6:32 pm
And the 12 people who have heard of you two? They agree.
June 19, 2020 @ 5:39 am
About that D18:
I’m trying to make art. Like, shut the fuck up, I’m trying to make art. I did not ask you to purchase this product.
— Jason Isbell
June 19, 2020 @ 8:33 am
He needs to Isbell is not his real surname. He changed it for professional purposes. His name at birth was Jason Isdull.
June 17, 2020 @ 12:49 pm
I enjoyed reading this article and continue to be perplexed by the lack of recognition from the general media about this. If a lot of other people other than The Highwomen had done this, they would most certainly be cancelled. Maren has always had a somewhat off-putting and just bizarre vibe in general, but I truthfully don’t know enough about the other women to speak on their character. I do wish Mickey would be able to break through…she’s had some bigger performances like with Carrie Underwood who really likes Mickey, but she just can’t quite make it.
June 17, 2020 @ 12:49 pm
The woke Nashville bubble drama 2020.
Cancel the Highwoman & give Mickey Guyton every CMA award for using the Minneapolis tragedy as a springboard: pushing a single out & releasing the drama-story.
King Honky Of Crackershire
June 17, 2020 @ 1:23 pm
She’ll at least get nominated in several categories, but I won’t be surprised a bit if they give her Female Vocalist.
Mark my words.
June 17, 2020 @ 2:14 pm
I didn’t write about this in the article because I only heard it from 2nd hand sources while trying to find out what exactly happened around the video shoot. But what I was told by a couple of people that would be in a position to know more than you or I is that Mickey Guyton never wanted to play the race card in her career, that she wanted the music to speak for itself, and be judged on its own merit. Where that changed was this incident with The Highwomen video shoot. She felt so overlooked, so marginalized, that she no longer could ignore it.
Some people are trying to write this incident off by saying, “Oh, it was probably just a snafu by some staff underling.” That may be the case, though if it is, why not just say that and move on? But to Mickey Guyton, this incident was earth shattering, regardless of the reason. And if you can imagine flying across the country to participate in something like this only to be disinvited last minute, it would probably be earth shattering for you as well.
June 17, 2020 @ 2:46 pm
“…Mickey Guyton never wanted to play the race card in her career…”. But she did!
The music industry is not a pony-ride at a fair. When the “incident” was so “earth shattering” for Mickey Guyton…the Nashville machine might be the wrong business for her.
June 17, 2020 @ 4:33 pm
And if it was so ‘earth shattering’, why didn’t she speak out right away? The whole thing seems bizarre.
June 17, 2020 @ 7:46 pm
why did she wait so long to tell the press about it if it was so offensive and hurt her so bad? That part I don’t understand. This smells a little like opportunity knocking and her jumping at it.
June 17, 2020 @ 8:13 pm
Look, there’s a chance that in some way Mickey Guyton is embellishing her story. There’s a chance that the reason she believes she was uninvited is partly, equally, mostly, or entirely her fault, or the fault of someone on her team. I reached out for comment from her team as well, and received no comment. I don’t have any reason to believe that the four principle members of The Highwomen purposely or maliciously put forth an effort to hurt Mickey Guyton. But when you have a situation and an accusation like this, I feel like it should be taken seriously, and a deeper explanation than “gross communication” is warranted. This could all be much ado about nothing. And trust me, if it is, people will be throwing it back in my face as if I’ve been scheming here to defame The Highwomen. But on a personal level, I like The Highwomen. I think it’s a cool project. I gave their album a favorable review. I thought Dave Cobb’s production could have been better. But I’ve got no beef with them.
As for why Guyton took so long to address this, I can tell you first hand just seeing the reaction to my two articles on this subject, you cross the Americana juggernaut that is The Highwomen, you’re going to be attacked, defamed, lampooned, etc. It was a career move for Guyton to keep quiet. The aftermath of George Floyd’s death gave her the platform to tell her story, and Maren Morris has basically fessed up that what happened to Mickey Guyton was their fault. We just don’t know to what extent, or what happened.
June 19, 2020 @ 4:26 pm
Maybe someone (her team or theirs) assumed she wasn’t going to participate because her husband was so ill. My guess is that they have all talked it out and something in the mix made them conclude that airing it has no benefit.
June 19, 2020 @ 4:55 pm
My guess is that they have all talked it out and something in the mix made them conclude that airing it has no benefit.
I’ve wondered about that myself. If true, that wouldn’t be very courageous.
Fat Freddy's Cat
June 17, 2020 @ 12:51 pm
This is an example of the kind of behavior that makes me unwilling to sit through tedious moral lectures from people in the entertainment industry. It’s the classic “do as I say not as I do” and it seriously undermines their credibility.
June 18, 2020 @ 7:10 am
Right. Actors are even worse. People who get paid to pretend for a living.
June 17, 2020 @ 1:01 pm
You guys remember when this wasnt an outlet for Trigger political projection and Axe grinding? Those were good times.
June 17, 2020 @ 2:24 pm
I’ve written 49 album reviews in 2020 so far. Not to mention album announcements, song reviews, and dozens of other dedicated music features. If there’s something on the site you don’t want to read, then by all means, don’t read it. I won’t be offended. I work very hard to offer great variety to readers so they can find something that will compel them, and offer all the content to the public for free.
But when I see a situation such as this, especially one the rest of media is curiously silent upon, I have a moral obligation to speak up, no matter who wants to read it. There is no political projection or Axe grinding going on here, nor is this in any way out of the norm. Anyone who thinks I’m jumping on the Mickey Guyton bandwagon right now because it’s politically expedient, you better navigate to the search window and educate yourself. Since 2015, I’ve been regularly beating the drum for Mickey Guyton, and specifically on the point of how the industry has been curiously exclusionary of her despite her talent and dedication to country music. And then this happens. There is nothing more important to the cause of Saving Country Music than a story like this.
I would have much rather have written say story titled, “The Highwomen release statement, clear up Mickey Guyton miscommunication,” and moved on. Instead, those calls have gone ignored. But I refuse to ignore what happened to Mickey Guyton.
June 17, 2020 @ 4:35 pm
It’s your blog, dude. Keep writing about what you want, and don’t be afraid to shy away from the stuff the fragile set are offended by or afraid to talk about.
June 18, 2020 @ 7:29 am
In fairness, Trigger’s unique literary voice is what keeps you, me, and everybody else coming back. He’s very good at what he does.
June 17, 2020 @ 1:06 pm
Not that I was going to listen to the “high women” dump on the legacies of four country stars in one movement anyway
But I certainly won’t listen to them now
King Honky Of Crackershire
June 17, 2020 @ 1:19 pm
What a pathetic article. Nobody owes anybody crap. You have become pathetic, race-baiting trash.
George Floyd was a scumbag who who was killed by a another scumbag. It had nothing to do with race and certainly nothing to do with these singers, and you are excrement for pretending it does.
June 18, 2020 @ 9:00 am
If liberals don’t like it, that’s because liberalism cannot survive in the light of the truth.
June 19, 2020 @ 5:24 pm
Neither can conservativism. They both involve being led like mindless sheep.
June 19, 2020 @ 7:21 pm
Leave this thread to those of us who are knowledgeable about that which we are posting.
Thanks for trying, however.
Do you wish me to provide you with a participation trophy?
June 17, 2020 @ 2:34 pm
Good write up Trigger- as usual.
Strait Country 81
June 17, 2020 @ 3:17 pm
Well if it’s taken this long and none of them have said anything at least not in any interview then i think you got the reason.
June 17, 2020 @ 3:33 pm
All i gotta say is there’s no bloody way Amanda Shires didn’t know who Mickey Guyton was. I like her a lot, but i think she’s clearly lying. Mickey’s response on twitter to Amanda is hilarious, like “really, bitch, really?”
June 17, 2020 @ 4:01 pm
I don’t care who looks like what if they can sing country music and aren’t completely insufferable pricks acting like they’re better for being famous
But most of these girls are barely country singers
And calling themselves “highwomen” is incredibly insulting to Johnny Waylon willie and Kris.
Country music isn’t a joke
It’s not to be parodied, made a running gag of or taken lightly
And it’s just saddening that not only are the so called women in country more concerned about reminding us that they are in fact women than they are about making country music, but that they have to show off how “woman” they are by treating the highwaymen like some sort of joke
And I don’t care who votes for who
If I pay to go to a football game I want to be entertained and get away from politics.
That’s why what Collin pumpernickel did was inappropriate.
Because he’s an entertainer, trying to use his platform to talk politics.
I pay to go to games to get away from politics and news.
I pay to be entertained
And how can I get involved in any singer or songwriter if I know more about their politics than I do about them?
Celebrity commentary culture is stupid and I’m so sick and tired of it
We get it, the world sucks
Nobody wants to go to anybody’s pity party but their own
If I had my way every singer in Nashville would get rid of twitter and Instagram and only do interviews where they talk about the craft.
June 17, 2020 @ 4:11 pm
“And calling themselves “highwomen” is incredibly insulting to Johnny Waylon willie and Kris.”
June 17, 2020 @ 4:01 pm
I get it that the answer is likely to be interesting and revealing. Maybe no one likes her as a person regardless of colour?
However, I’m happy to ignore it if they ignore whatever perceived faults I have.
As for the Jason Isbell part…. I supported Hope The High Road, and was happy not to fight down in the ditch, but it seems that’s where he likes to be.
I think the era of social statement songs is coming to its logical conclusion, time to get back to instrumentals and yodelling.
June 17, 2020 @ 7:06 pm
I don’t care what’s between an artist’s legs or what color they happen to be. All I care about is whether or not the music is any good. Diversity for the sake of it is bullshit. If people don’t want you in the club then tell them where to shove it and become successful despite them. It’s 2020. If mumble rappers can make it, then damn near anyone should be able to find a niche.
June 17, 2020 @ 7:09 pm
I’m a liberal feminist whose childhood heroes were the Goddesses of Country Music: Dolly, Tanya, Reba, Martina, Faith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leanne Womack (the Fool still gives me the chills), I had huge crushes on the Erwin sisters (who I saw playing at Czhech Festivals in Texas while Natalie was still smoking pot on her father’s back porch.) I think Emily’s banjo playing inspired me to start internally calling myself not straight…
Some thing has always been off about this group. I was excited about this project when it was first announced and totally behind the idea. I started to wonder about it as far back as when Margo pulled out and Maren was added. Margo seems to have a hell of a lot of conviction and integrity and I wondered what had made her change her mind about being involved. I was excited when Natalie was added – I adore her as Miranda’s co-writer and can recite every lyric in Calexico. Although she’s obviously a talented vocalist, I’ve never cared for Brandi because she reminds me so much of the smug Alpha Lesbians I dated in my 20s who re-enact the same toxic masculinity they’re so quick to call out in others. Also, it seemed obvious to me after reading the litigation over the Grammys that it was Brandi who used backroom deals to get that AOTY nod. A pop music forum I also visit was pretty unanimous in agreeing that it was Brandi who got that rigged nomination. I hated her production on Tanya’s album and thought it was low-key tacky to include a cover of House that Built Me which is the signature song of mainstream country’s last real female voice.
When the album came out – I was super disappointed. The voices in unison would have been a nice statement on one song, but it becomes unlistenable and ruins all of the songs for me. I honestly felt awkward about the inclusion of one black woman on one song but none in the actual group. The lyric about Montgomery Bus riding seemed bait-y and awkward for an album that keeps a white perspective in every other song. I was shocked by the media tongue-bathing for the album – one called it the best country album in decades which is beyond absurd. It’s not even the best album by an all-female country music supergroup in the past five years because Interstate Gospel still exists even if woefully underrated. I was alarmed by how upset Natalie seemed in The Highwomen’s Ellen appearance. None of the women seemed like they liked each other or wanted to be there. Except for Brandi who seemed just as pleased with herself as she always does, of course. And, Amanda made sure that all the fanboys filming their Newport Festival show saw Jason playing in the band to ensure their performance was been Jason’s neckbeards.
There’s just something phony about the execution of all of this even if I would love to support the idea. It just seems like street cred for Brandi, coat tail riding for Amanda at the expense of Natalie’s talent and real inclusiveness.
June 18, 2020 @ 4:20 am
So you like Lee Ann Womack. Well try spelling her name correctly.
June 18, 2020 @ 10:34 am
You should talk, Patty.
June 19, 2020 @ 7:07 am
Paddy is an Irish nickname for Patrick and has also been used in the past as an ethnic slur (e.g., Paddy Wagon). Still, the original comment was a good one and reacting to it by pointing out a spelling error is petty.
June 17, 2020 @ 7:36 pm
For the love of god…can we please stop examining every damn thing that a white person may or may not have done (accidentally or purposely) to a black person over the last 50 years?? This is spinning way out of control now and it’s especially annoying when these women are clearly not racist but yet here’s someone digging away looking for an angle to pounce and take down and expose the next racist performer. Seriously, this is getting tired and ridiculous. Does someone really think that they got together and said, “we can’t have a black artist in our video, please uninvite her to the set”? Ludicrous! Let’s stick to country music reporting and try not to get sucked in to covering this type of story. First the infamous “List” and now this. Let’s talk some new music. You could have written 10 new album reviews with the time you spent on this non-story.
June 17, 2020 @ 8:26 pm
On the 10 albums reviews part:
I’ve been running Saving Country Music for 13 years now. The most common criticism I receive is to write more reviews, despite reviews being the most unpopular content that I post. They’re also the most common type of articles I post. They’re also the articles it takes the most time to write. In reality, I could have written three articles like this in the same time it takes me to write one album review.
Simply to review an album, you have to listen to the album at least two or three times, bare minimum. If your average album is an hour, that’s 25 hours of time right there. Then you have to write the actual review, which as I said, is very hard, and often can take four to six hours.
I’ve posted 49 album reviews so far in 2020. Last year I believe I reviewed 97 albums. Think of how many albums that is, how much time that takes just to listen, let alone write. I literally post as many album reviews as I absolutely humanly can. I can’t physically post any more reviews. It’s impossible. I’m constantly listening to music. I’m constantly working on reviews. I write these kinds of articles to clear my palette. There’s not a single review, let alone 10, that didn’t get written because this article did.
I’m very grateful that people want to read my reviews, and I appreciate everyone allowing me to write about country music for a living. So please, go read them, and ignore these articles if you wish. But I can’t and won’t ignore important subjects like this that are critical to the mission to save country music.
June 17, 2020 @ 8:30 pm
Except that the members of The Highwomen have been judging everyone else on their racism. Had they not done that then there would be no reason for this article.
June 17, 2020 @ 8:35 pm
What we need is a Garth-the-savior feel-good song to bring us all together and get along. Maybe sing it with a tear and quiver in the voice. Oh wait.
June 17, 2020 @ 8:44 pm
Don’t get me started…
June 17, 2020 @ 8:36 pm
Trigger, I won’t say a lot since I commented way too much on the last article, but well said and done. I think we all could have predicted the outcome of your inquiries, but you fought the good fight, and that’s a lot more than the other so called “journalists” can say.
June 17, 2020 @ 9:26 pm
This is pathetically strained. For one, naming this as “liberal hypocrisy” presupposes that this was a racist act committed by those who claim ant-racism. They certainly owe an explanation to Mickey Guyton, cause it sounds rude.
The whole take is completely convoluted gobbledygook of innuendo amounting to “a black artist got dis-invited from a video shoot (probably racist behavior) by liberals whose outspokenness I clearly resent, but no one knows why and no one on either side of this will explain it to my blog. This is BAD *~and probably racist, hypocrite Shires, put her on that mean list, liberal racism*~ , but they’re not racist.” Okaaaaaaaay.
It is truly does boggle the mind that in a world on fire with flagrant racism why this news isn’t crashing the internet. Liberal media!
Look, if Shires was racist, report that, and she will get her rightful comeuppance you imply she so deserves. As it is, and will undoubtedly remain, this is just a non-story transparently motivated by anti-Shires sentiment due to her politics.
June 17, 2020 @ 9:46 pm
If I had to guess, he reported on Maren and Shires because they said something….thus something to report on. You making this about politics and a defense of Shires speaks to exactly why this story is being ignored. And if you think that a scripted music video, made in 2019, about “redesigned women,” shot in 30% black Nashville, with a dozen or more only white women – while Mickey was disinvited – is a “non-story”…it just MIGHT be you that has the ulterior motive.
June 17, 2020 @ 10:06 pm
I’m not sue what “ulterior motive” means here, but it certainly implies something, which is a theme of this entire thread.
Should there have been women of color dancing around the fire the last thirty seconds of the video given the song’s theme? I’m inclined to agree, if that’s your position. Is the video racist? I do no think so. I think that’s where I’m at, and I’ll meet you there if that’s where you’re at. I’m somehow guessing though that you don’t want that as some universal standard by which to judge the behaviors of other musicians you already like; probably just liberals who are outspokenly anti-racist and liberal. But you can let me know.
Look, I get that the “liberal hypocrisy” genre is popular because hypocrisy in your opponents implies your own moral superiority and possibly even exposes the ludicrousness of their ideas that you don’t like, but the content just isn’t here in this particular case. If Shires is your target because her retweet of the mean list rankles you, you’re going to have to keep looking.
I’m not even opposed to this genre of critique completely, so long as it’s done in good faith with a recognition that the professed values are worth defending and it’s not just done as sport for the purpose of self-congratulations. Based on this article’s content, tone, and context,I’m thinking it’s the latter.
Robert J Stewart
June 18, 2020 @ 2:51 am
Well said and so true.
June 19, 2020 @ 4:01 pm
Again you’re making it about Shires. She’s not even 1/4th of the story. It’s the director, it’s the other 3 members. It’s the casting director,etc. …..your fixation both on her and politics is telling.
Not everything has to be political. I have liberal values, and I still call all of this, and your blinded loyal defense…total bullshit.
June 19, 2020 @ 7:14 pm
All the women in this, “supergroup” are culpable.
They edged her out.
You know, passive aggressive, bully style.
People want something to bitch about?
Handing it to you on a silver platter
June 17, 2020 @ 11:00 pm
She’s a social justice warrior with her last two singles being decidedly NOT COUNTRY. Oh well, I don’t care about her race or anyone else’s. I wish we could go back to that old thing where skin color didn’t matter to he majority of us
June 18, 2020 @ 5:45 am
“I wish we could go back to that old thing where skin color didn’t matter to he majority of us.”
That statement is absolutely why we need articles, movements, and moments like this.
June 18, 2020 @ 8:23 am
Because dwelling on pigment will really do wonders for the good ol’ US of A. You’re totally right.
June 19, 2020 @ 9:21 am
What was that MLK quote about being judged by character and not the color of skin?
Yeah, that has been ignored because equal treatment is lesser than special treatment.
June 19, 2020 @ 4:45 pm
I realize you’re not really asking, but here it is:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
June 18, 2020 @ 1:46 am
I have said it before. To call themselves The Highwomen is a joke To even think they could compare themselves to Johhny, Willie,Kris & Waylon is simply laughable. They were SUPERSTARS when they recorded a few albums together. The Higwomen are not. Hell, they are not even country. Then the best we can do is to simply ignore them , See what happens when their sales tank. They are adopting old tactics. Say nothing and it will go away. Keep it going, Trigger.
June 18, 2020 @ 6:50 am
As long as you say the right things, your actions don’t need to line up. That is what 2020 confirmed to the world. At least to anyone not willfully blind. This “supergroup” says all the right things so it is OK for them to stiff the minority Guyton. They are the upper class, white guilt suburbanite who says they love the poor but wouldn’t be caught dead in the ghetto.
That is the problem with this world today. As long you post a picture, or use a hashtag, it is all good. The actions don’t matter. And that is why none of the issues that created this recent firestorm will be resolved.
June 18, 2020 @ 8:30 am
I don’t know when we as a society learned to spin every goddamn thing that happens to suit our personal agendas, but we sure as hell have learned it well.
June 18, 2020 @ 8:42 am
Why were neither Yola nor Rhiannon Giddens included among the Highwomen? Am I suggesting that makes this group of women racist? Absolutely not – that would be ludicrous. BUT – Virtue signaling can be a dangerous, dangerous game. If you’re going to jump on the bandwagon of hashtagged twitter rants or a reprehensible spreadsheet that implies a whole host of people are racist for what they DON’T say, then you’d better be prepared for people to jump to outrageous conclusions for the things you don’t do yourself. That’s the world we’re creating with our culture of virtue signaling and the rush to outrage. It’s tiresome.
June 19, 2020 @ 5:59 am
They were not chosen because they are too good. Would only show Brandi and Co. to be frauds.
June 19, 2020 @ 7:02 am
Yola had a guest lead vocal on the title track of the album. Rhiannon Giddens was leading a different supergroup called Our Native Daughters. I’m guessing that if she was available and was asked, she would have said no.
I’m no fan of Maren Morris and don’t know much about Natalie Hemby (had to look up her name to be sure of it), but to suggest that Brandi Carlile (and by association, Amanda Shires) are artistic frauds is just absurd. Get a hold of yourself.
June 19, 2020 @ 8:03 am
Okay. Must agree. But they are no supergroup. To call themselves such is fraudulent. Morris is more pop than country, Hemby is a very talented songwriter and is more Americana. As for the other 2, they are definitely Americana. I have no idea where this supergroup crap started. I would guess their record company. And Yola and Giddens are in a different league.
June 19, 2020 @ 10:47 am
I think supergroup just means a group of artists with their own established music careers who come together as a group on a special project. For example, there’s a group you may never have heard of called The World Famous Headliners who put out one album in 2012. They may still play shows for all I know. The “super” members are Big Al Anderson (formerly of NRBQ), Pat McLaughlin and Shawn Camp. The word “supergroup” has been used to describe them and I think they might be ironically referring to themselves as such.
I don’t know much about Yola except that latest album, which I listened to a couple of times, but haven’t picked up yet. I’m a huge Rhiannon Giddens fan (back to the Carolina Chocolate Drops 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig), but she’s a different kind of artist than Carlile and Shires, who largely perform original songs. Giddens writes occasionally, but I don’t think she has the songwriting (or maybe fiddle) chops that Amanda Shires has and I don’t think she completely outclasses Brandi Carlile as a singer. But I think she is an absolute giant in roots music. A national treasure, even.
June 18, 2020 @ 8:47 am
Having never worked in the industry before but following it I have a question. Isn’t the “talent” usually not the people who create the video and control all the logistics. It seems that the issue was addressed when one of the members of the group state that it was an embarrassing oversight. Why does each member need to state the same thing? It seems that Mickey was invited but something happened in the meantime or there was a glitch. I do not think the members of the group got together and changed her itinerary unless there was a personal issue. I would guess this has to do with someone in a suit…..
June 18, 2020 @ 11:37 am
The Highwomen epitomize what happens when political correctness backfires and rather than taking accountability for the incident with Mickey, arrogance and stupidity become more apparent than their music. Rather than recognizing The Highwomen as an artistic force with a voice for all women, they should be acknowledged for what they really are: four women with a tremendous amount of white privilege and celebrity that has allowed them to give the middle finger to the same industry that made them all famous. Sadly, it is this privilege that continues to squelch opportunities in the realm of country music for people of color. Additionally, it makes the ridiculousness of the Highwomen’s “message” all the more convoluted and utterly absurd. The most politically correct action they can take at this point is get off of their high horse, admit their privilege and apologize for their egregious behavior towards a black female artist.
June 19, 2020 @ 8:20 am
Move along, nothing to see here. Yet another in a long line of examples of do as I say not as I do. I think it exposes several as hypocrites.
June 19, 2020 @ 4:15 pm
“The Highwomen are not racist. They collaborated with black British singer Yola on their “Highwomen” theme song, and Yola also performed with them at Newport Folk Fest in 2019.”
Come on, Trigger. Just because one collaborates with or performs with a black person doesn’t mean they aren’t racist.
June 19, 2020 @ 4:18 pm
Did you reach out to Mickey Guyton?
June 21, 2020 @ 4:13 pm
I did. But alas she will not let me slide into her DMs
June 20, 2020 @ 5:17 am
I’m more disturbed by the “spreadsheet”.
June 20, 2020 @ 6:59 am
“Without even hearing a single piece of music, The Highwomen had become a phenomenon.”
This is the crux of the matter. Everyone wanted a feel good story, where female country singers take up and get the honor they deserve and all that. It was never about who they were, or their musical resume, or their actual music. Case in point, the Pistol Annies who made more music, better music and are also a country women supergroup, yet have not been hailed as the highwomen.
So it’s basically a poster-child, it’s not about whether they are truly a voice of anything, just that they got lucky and their stars aligned exactly when the country and music and entertainment press was looking for something to put on their collective front page.
And since their are not there for their own merits, it’s probably not a good idea to point their misgiving, because they are not real, and no one cares about what they really do. And worse, no one wants to ruin the featured story with bad publicity and then be accused by everyone else as not true enough to the cause.
June 22, 2020 @ 11:56 am
I’ve stuck with this site for a while.
The whole SXSW cancellation thing was a shitshow that you’ve never actually owned up to but I was willing to let it go.
And then this nonsense.
Guaranteed that none of the Highwomen did anything to snub Guyton. Why would they have invited her?!
But hooboy you wrote a lot of words seemingly trying to make it seem like they did.
I know, I know, you were ‘Just asking questions’.
Think it’s finally time to start rootin’ around for another site
June 22, 2020 @ 12:00 pm
And if you’re wondering what people are getting out of this ‘piece’:
“All the women in this, “supergroup” are culpable.
They edged her out.
You know, passive aggressive, bully style.
People want something to bitch about?
Handing it to you on a silver platter”
Absolutely zero reason to think that they “edged her out”
Good job, Trig – Way to shed light on country music
June 22, 2020 @ 5:46 pm
That was me, dumbass.
Trig had nothing to do with this comment.
June 22, 2020 @ 8:40 pm
And my reply to you, & using the term dumbass, is not meant to offend.
Thought about putting a smiling emoji next to the word, but do not particularly care for emojis.
It was actually used as a term of endearment, as is sometimes used in circles of friendships
June 22, 2020 @ 7:12 pm
I appreciate your concerns, and I respect and value your feedback.
First, take myself and Saving Country Music completely out of this equation, and look at the story itself. What we have here is Mickey Guyton—the only black female performer in the mainstream of country music at the moment—posting an op/ed in Billboard Magazine making the claim that she was disinvited from a video shoot, and feeling so hurt by it, she made the incident the centerpiece of her article. That should shock everyone in country music. And I’m not the only one who reported on this. Billboard saw Mickey Guyton’s op/ed newsworthy enough to post it in the first place, and then later they saw it was newsworthy enough to post about how it was The Highwomen video shoot where the disinvitation had occurred. So yes, I do think this was an important story, as did Billboard. So you can see me as some manipulative dude who’s “grinding axes” here (still don’t know exactly what that accusation means), but others saw it as newsworthy as well. I think it’s very mainstream and very important to be concerned about this circumstance.
I went out of my way to say I didn’t think The Highwomen didn’t do it maliciously, may have not known about it, may have not known she was invited in the first place, aren’t racist, and don’t deserve to be “cancelled” over the issue. I think a lot of people are imprinting a negative view they have of me on this story, as opposed to letting the facts speak for themselves, and that’s unfortunate for Mickey Guyton. She made an accusation, and that accusation has been validated. Seems like it would be best for all parties to clear the air.
As far as the whole SXSW cancellation thing, I have addressed it, and I have addressed it numerous times. Here’s one of many:
With how politically-inciting COVID-19 is, and since we’re still in the midst of the pandemic and still don’t have a clear picture of where we’ll end up after the disease is brought under control, it’s just not appropriate at the moment to try and write the final chapter yet. When it’s appropriate, perhaps I’ll address it further.
June 24, 2020 @ 5:23 am
I know I’m writing this late, but just to say I think Trigger does an incredible job on this site. Reviews of anything can be an absolute slog to write (it can take me two and a half hours to write a 800-word film review on IMDB, and that just concerns one movie, not twelve different songs with their own identities). I read almost everything he posts on here, including thoughtful and forensic articles on the wider country music landscape, like this one.
Instead of being pilloried for this article, he should be commended for addressing a discomforting issue with a band he likes. It’s exactly this discernment, and ability to shrug off any cognitive dissonance, which the other journalists mentioned here don’t appear to possess. They’re women, feminists, and fans of the Highwoman (all of which is fine), due in no small part to their support for gender inclusiveness, yet are perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to the group when something slightly off-message occurs.
I’m a liberal, yet I believe it’s important to keep consistent and ensure we check ourselves and (politely) each other, in an effort to prevent hypocrisy. It’s the only way our ideologies can attain any rectitude.
June 25, 2020 @ 12:56 pm
Why let other people tell you where the goalposts are?
This entire “argument” requires the presumption that the Highwaywomen are a real group doing real music, for musical reasons. They put the goalpost there, and everybody just accepted it. The are not a real group doing anything for any reason other than publicity and all of the other reasons that bored white women get a mind to form a club and do something. This has been going on in this country since the Progressive era. Can we just for once say, “who cares what you do. You are not important to anyone except as occasional musical diversion.” And I’d say, of all of them, Shires is probably the least interesting. All she’s managed to do is ruin Jason.