Highwomen Supergroup Offers First Taste via “Redesigning Women”
As if answering a distress call sent out over the airwaves or via a spotlight beamed over Music City, the Highwomen have assembled in the form of the Grammy-winning Brandi Carlile, fiddlemaster Amanda Shires, songwriting markswoman Natalie Hemby, and superstar Maren Morris. Together they will combine their musical superpowers to fight crime in the greater metropolitan Nashville area, work to right the injustices facing country women, and release a Dave Cobb-produced record on September 6th.
When Amanda Shires first let information on the supergroup slip prematurely, she assured the project would not be quote-unquote “man haters,” that the name was in homage to The Highwaymen and not about seeking altered states of consciousness, and most importantly, that this stuff would be country. Brandi Carlile was the primary co-conspirator, with Natalie Hemby and Maren Morris added later. Plenty of hype has preceded this super pairing, but now we get our first taste of what they’re all about with the song “Redesigning Women.”
Reminiscent of classic Loretta Lynn, but embellished pleasingly with multi-part part harmony indicative of the Trio superproject (Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris), the ladies of Highwomen make good on the promise to stay country, which was part of the inspiration for the side project by Shires and Carlile, who are much more Americana in their regular gigs, though are clearly influenced by country proper. Like the Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen moonlighting gig “Hold My Beer,” this is an opportunity for these women to showcase their true country love without any worry of upsetting established sounds or fan bases.
Written by Natalie Hemby and Rodney Clawson, the words of “Redesigning Women” are classic, frisky, and fun, once again calling mind to Loretta Lynn and the other classic women of country who often spoke to the strong females of rural America, juggling to keep a house, raise kids, and God forbid, find careers and passions of their own calling. These days any song with a strong feminine characters is going to be labeled “empowerment” or “fighting gender norms,” and will be underpinned with political motivations by the press. But this is against the spirit of music’s universal nature. Let the song speak for itself as opposed to making it something polarizing by presenting it as a middle finger to someone or something, destroying the chance of it to present an important perspective to someone before they even hear it, especially with a song like “Redesigning Women,” which is more about conveying a perspective as opposed to telling a story.
Dave Cobb’s production on “Redesigning Women” puts the voices of these ladies right out front where they’re supposed to be, and the slightly distressed recording style works well to give the song a classic feel. The only primary gripe is that this song doesn’t just call for pedal steel guitar, it screams for it, even seems to leave space for it, though it never comes. But the production and instrumentation are fine, with what sounds like Jason Isbell playing lead guitar, and some good twang from the Highwomen’s voices helping to set the country mood.
When some purists see the list of participants in this supergroup, they may start humming to themselves the old ditty, “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…” But if Maren Morris wants to participate in some actual country music, why not let her? Her presence here will help bring in more fans, and who knows, maybe help convert them to more quality music. Morris certainly hasn’t been particularly friendly to the traditional side of country recently, and polarized fans have the right to be leery of her participation. But they’re also being foolish if they react to a name as opposed to the music itself, which if “Redesigning Women” is any indication, sounds promising so far.
And Natalie Hemby should not be considered the unknown quantity here, she’s the Ace in the Hole, and maybe in the position to most benefit from the attention this supergroup is receiving, even though she might be one of the most accomplished of the group as a behind-the-scenes songwriter. The Highwomen also say this project is not just about them, but about all the women in the country and roots realm, with Wynonna Judd, Tanya Tucker, Hailey Whitters, Cam, Lily Hiatt, Erin Rae, RaeLynn, Natalie Stovall, and others making appearances in the song’s video. There’s also some important guys involved in this effort, including Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile’s twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth, and songwriter Jimmy Webb. Taking a look at the songwriting credits (see below), they also include Lori McKenna, Miranda Lambert, and Ray LaMontagne. This may be a side hustle, but a lot of effort went into this Highwomen material.
More will be determined on if The Highwomen can live up to the high standards some of country music’s other supergroups in the past like The Highwaymen and Trio when they release their self-titled album on September 6th. But “Redesigning Women” is definitely a good start.
1 3/4 Guns Up
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THE HIGHWOMEN TRACK LIST
July 20, 2019 @ 9:31 am
I am so excited about this! Love Redesigning Women. And you are spot on about Morris. She has a great voice and it’s good to hear it singing country.
July 20, 2019 @ 9:35 am
Can’t wait to see what they’re about Friday in Newport!!!!
July 20, 2019 @ 10:03 am
Yess, yes and yes. I love this project and this song. It makes it’s point and is still fun, kick-ass Country. Thank you for making the same points I’ve been making about Maren Morris. Not a fan, but she is talented and maybe this will help her see the light. And what about Brandi Carlile, by the way? I love her but she tends towards the over-wrought and dramatic. Nice to hear her having some fun! Looking forward to the full album’s release and hopefully catching the live somewhere.
July 20, 2019 @ 11:49 am
Will i play “Redisigning Woman” again? Yes. It’s an “earworm” & the album-tracklist looks good.
Still not a fan of Maren Morris. Now she is country. Next week she is pop. In one month she is releasing an edm track…oops…it’s all about diversity today.
More Good Music:
Briana Adams – “Not Drinkin’ Tonight” – Single – Released (06/06)
Texas artists returns with an uptempo tune. The track is on the way to debut on the Texas Top 100 next week. Dance halls & honky tonks will love the track.
Casey Baker – “Life Has Taken It’s Toll On Me” – Single – Released (-)
Her debut single was a Top 10 hit in Texas a couple of weeks ago & there is no reason why “Life…” should not be the next hit. Fiddle-driven uptempo track. New entry on #93 in Texas (Texas Top 100). Her debut album is called When The Party’s All Over & is fine piece of work.
Anita Ree – Not Love Songs – Album – 12 Tracks – Released (07/18)
Anita Ree is a veteran of australian country music. Down home & basic country tracks with a lot of fiddle & steel. First single “Sweet Sugar Cane” is a Top 10 hit already. My highlights: “Lonesome Road Song”, “Soft Place To Fall”, the cover of the classic Slim Dusty song “Indian Pacific” & the single “Sweet Sugar Cane”.
July 20, 2019 @ 11:49 am
God, this is going to be great. I love this first single. The harmonies are angelic. I love all the cameos in the music video, too.
For the Birds
July 20, 2019 @ 11:59 am
This is so good! Love this song and so excited about this project. Can’t wait to hear that Miranda co-write….!
July 20, 2019 @ 12:04 pm
This is a great start. I hope the rest of the album is this good.
Atomic Zombie Redneck
July 20, 2019 @ 1:03 pm
Easily the best thing Morris has done since “My Church”, largely thanks to the excellent line-up she’s fortunate to be a part of.
Awesome to see many songwriting credits for Carlile and Hemby. I can’t wait to hear more.
King Honky Of Crackershire
July 20, 2019 @ 1:06 pm
The only thing this has the possibility of doing, is sucking.
It won’t be C(c)ountry. It will include Maren’s singing voice.
July 21, 2019 @ 7:10 am
July 20, 2019 @ 1:17 pm
As a fan of most of the women in this group, is this a side project or what? I ask because I don’t want to invest time and effort only for them to “disband”
July 20, 2019 @ 1:54 pm
I think it’s equatable to the Pistol Annies, where it’s a fun side gig and they might get a few albums out of it, but their main focus is still going to be their solo careers.
July 20, 2019 @ 2:19 pm
July 20, 2019 @ 2:29 pm
No one is going to take the music back out of your ears after you hear it.
July 21, 2019 @ 3:33 pm
It’s not a tv show, so feel free to listen and enjoy it for what it is.
July 20, 2019 @ 1:44 pm
Like it! I’m looking forward to the rest of the album. Ray LaMontagne co-write? I wonder where he’s been?
July 20, 2019 @ 1:46 pm
Good song, but agree with Trigger about more instrumentation. More steel guitar, how about some of Brandy’s piano work, perhaps at the end. The song ends too abruptly, some instrumentation to fade-out would make it better IMHO.
July 20, 2019 @ 2:33 pm
I have a problem calling this a “supergroup” (none have reached that super status), but compared to real supergroups like the Highway Men, Trio and The Traveling Wilburys, it’s refreshing to see original music.
July 20, 2019 @ 2:50 pm
My definition of a supergroup is any group of performers who are well known in their own right coming together to form a band. I think this qualifies. There may never be another band with as much star power as The Highwaymen.
July 20, 2019 @ 3:03 pm
very corny song, nowhere near the quality of the Highwaymen
July 20, 2019 @ 3:37 pm
While I quite like the Highwaymen, this song isn’t nearly as corny as the song Highwayman and its video, which is so ludicrous it’s endearing.
July 20, 2019 @ 6:44 pm
Stop. Just stop.
July 21, 2019 @ 2:09 am
Nope – it’s a patently ludiocrious song. Johnny Cash sings about flying a star ship, for god’s sake. All I’m saying is that it’s cornier than this song, which isn’t a bad thing, (it’s more memorable than this song, certainly) it just is.
July 21, 2019 @ 7:48 am
I don’t even know how to respond so let’s just leave it at I hope you have a great day.
July 21, 2019 @ 7:12 am
The highwayman is not a great song, overly produced and weird.
July 21, 2019 @ 8:56 am
July 21, 2019 @ 7:36 am
In my opinion, Highwayman is one of the greatest songs ever written. And the Highwaymen and band performed it masterfully. Yes, it’s a little over the top, but a band with four country music gods is, by nature, over the top too. They picked a Jimmy Webb song that matched that otherworldly spirit.
Yes, the video was awful, but so were most of them back in the 80s.
July 20, 2019 @ 3:11 pm
Seems like a knockoff of Pistol Annies
July 20, 2019 @ 3:29 pm
Don’t know if you meant to list ALL the singers in the video, but you missed Cassadee Pope.
July 20, 2019 @ 5:00 pm
I believe he said “and others”…
July 20, 2019 @ 5:20 pm
You got me, Trigger! My first thought actually was:
“One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…” But listening to this I had a hard time distinguishing Maren’s voice because this is so unlike her solo pop stuff. I wish she would actually sing country by herself, but regardless, this is really good all around. I look forward to hearing more!
July 20, 2019 @ 6:33 pm
While I don’t question their intentions, this first single is pretty MOR. The main tell is the verses which are musically reminiscent of REO Speedwagon (Heard it from a friend who/Heard it from a friend who…) and the tacked on bridge. It’s closer to Nashville auto-write than anything else, fitting for an instaband that never went on the road, never developed material or a sound. I get it, it’s a side gig; but maybe while they were getting their matching tattoos, they could have dug a little deeper. Catchy, yes. Revolutionary or even meaningful? We’ll see what the album’s like.
July 20, 2019 @ 7:07 pm
It has Maren Morris in it.
July 20, 2019 @ 8:29 pm
Sounds good, I’ll probably order the CD.
I bought Maren Morris’s first CD on Amazon after hearing her “I Could Use a Love Song” single. I listened to it in my car once. I thought she sounded good and hand potential, but I found it unpleasant that she would throw in the word “shit” for no apparent reason in every other song. So I tossed that disc. Hopefully, this disc will be more conventional country and Morris won’t feel the need to gratuitously curse throughout the album
July 21, 2019 @ 1:37 am
Excellent stuff. Not a fan of Maren as I don’t like her pop stuff, but her doing country is excellent.
July 21, 2019 @ 6:01 am
Nice touch having Jimmy Webb (author of The Highwayman) as a co-writer on the title cut.
July 21, 2019 @ 6:02 am
I’m conflicted on this. The song sounds good, ok. I somewhat like it. It sounds country to my ears. But , to even imagine these gals are the female equivalent of The Highwaymen is absurd. The closest anyone ever came was The Trio Sessions with Dolly, Linda and Emmylou. There was also the Down From The Mountain tour where Alison Krauss, Emmylou and Gillian Welch sang together, which from a bluegrass meets country perspective was a Super group of sorts. I think Rhonda Vincent might have joined them on a couple dates as well, if i recall right.
Three of the 4 in this group are Americana, and the other one whom I won’t name is a second tier Pop Star. (Ouch)
I know this is a trivial hangup, but it slightly annoys me. It’s deliberately using a variation of the Highwaymen name and concept to make a buck. I realize that opinion is gonna get me some flak, I understand. And you are gonna say, Kevin if the music is good, who cares. I suppose I will with-hold final judgement till the full album is released.
July 21, 2019 @ 7:08 am
July 21, 2019 @ 7:54 am
Flak? Nah think you pretty much nailed it.
July 21, 2019 @ 8:31 am
I Don’t think anyone is or should try to compare them to The Highwaymen. I don’t think there making that comparisons themselves. It’s just a name and a play on words. The other thing to point out is they’re not the first. There’s actually been a few project out there called The Highway Women or High Women before.
July 21, 2019 @ 6:53 pm
I’m glad someone else thinks what I was thinking, a little presumptuous on the name. But that doesn’t bother me so much as the song is mediocre, too wordy but most importantly their voices just don’t blend well. Trio was amazing, this sounds like 4 people who find it more important to be friends than leave out the one who just can’t sing. Since they are making a statement we should rally I guess. But I’ll wait for the rest of the songs…wouldn’t be the first time that the lead single was the only track that sucked on an album.
July 21, 2019 @ 9:16 am
Pretty good. I’ll go 1.5 guns or so. I think a much better song with the same message and more satisfying for me from a lyrical and country music perspective would be “Sometimes It Takes Balls to be a Woman” by Elizabeth Cook. Hoping that this is just the more accessible single and there is better to come on the album. Good song, though.
July 21, 2019 @ 10:01 am
Really enjoyed this/looking forward to the rest. My only concern is the fact that there is already a group called The Highway Women who currently have over 25k likes on Facebook. From what I’ve heard they sound pretty good with a decent traditional sound, and I’d hate to see one group unintentionally undermine the other.
Strait Country 81
July 21, 2019 @ 11:11 am
I wanna be their groupie
jessie with the long hair
July 21, 2019 @ 1:42 pm
This song is boring and the idea of this group is too. I hate hearing them all sing in unison. The bridge melody doesn’t fit the rest of the song. They have no chemistry in the video. All talented but this first song and video seems like a cheap Pistol Annies imitaiton.
July 21, 2019 @ 3:44 pm
Produced by Dave Cobb? Brandi Carlile? Natalie Hemby? Amanda Shire? MARREN MORRIS? What timeline are we in? What is this? This makes no sense to me yet the music speaks for itself and it sounds good. The name is silly though. Completely passed over them on Apple Music earlier based on the name alone. Glad trigger changed my mind once again.
July 21, 2019 @ 5:33 pm
kinda pistol annie-ish to my ear ( unison vocals ?? ) …
but i’m curious so i’m staying tuned if only to hear maren sing a country song somewhere in that song list . there may be some COUNTRY music lurking here ….but aside from her there’s no one else in this quartet with a COUNTRY voice ,
July 21, 2019 @ 9:50 pm
I’m clearly not the target audience for this one so I’m not going to worry about it.
July 22, 2019 @ 12:30 am
I absolutely love this. Can’t wait for the album now. It’s actually great to see more successful musicians like Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris creating these super groups– thePistol Annies and Highwomen–to not only make wonderful music but also bring attention to more women in country music. I love that solidarity. If this song is any indication, the album is going to be phenomenal!
July 22, 2019 @ 6:42 am
The awful publicity shots aside, if you’re going to do this, give us a unique sound and a unique perspective. Pistol Annies have been doing this song for 8 years (better, imo).
July 22, 2019 @ 6:49 am
I really enjoyed this song and video. The reason I gravitated to country and Americana a few years ago was that it has more mature subject matter than most other genres. This song hits the contemporary working mom experience very well. Yes, there are other songs that do the same thing, and I am a fan of most of them as well. If Maren wants to participate, I am fine with this. I actually think that her band mates could lift her up. She actually has a good voice- hopefully they will teach her to use it for the power of good. I hope that Margo Price is still involved somehow, as she was originally rumored to be.
July 22, 2019 @ 7:34 am
This is all about politics and desperate need for attention. Consisting of a popstar, a woman best known as the wife of Jason who has accomplished nothing more than constant bellyaching that no one pays attention to her, and someone I’ve never heard of. The only one I even own an album from is Carlile, and she’s mediocre at best, with a song or two on each album.
The three known woman in this group are more known for their constant crying about how things aren’t fair and their put downs of country music and it’s real stars, yet none of them has released a “real” country album, much less anything that would be considered top quality. Now they are kicking off their album with attacks on the NRA, gun owners, the country establishment, and of course Trump. How cliche. Maybe they should give a better attempt at making good “Country” music, and possibly they will receive the same acclaim as those of the other gender. But I guess it’s easier to to be a victim.
Maybe Maren will shed her clothes again for the cause. That should get a few sales.
July 22, 2019 @ 12:27 pm
I see a lot of comparisons to the Pistol Annies… there is enough room for more than one female-focused supergroup! I personally love them both.
July 22, 2019 @ 5:09 pm
Super group? Maybe a souper group. No substance, and not very filling. All of these ladies put together don’t have the talent of a single member of The Highwaymen.
July 22, 2019 @ 8:28 pm
I like Amanda Shires’ outfit.
July 23, 2019 @ 5:54 am
They also did a version of “The chain” for the movie named “the Kitchen” Video is here at this link; their voices sound excellent together.
July 23, 2019 @ 5:08 pm
That does sound better, but hardly groundbreaking. I like Isbell’s guitar work on that most.
July 24, 2019 @ 8:48 am
Really wish they had included BC’s “Cowgirls” on this album. Still looking forward to it.
David C Rumsey
July 24, 2019 @ 12:51 pm
They’re gonna kill each other
July 30, 2019 @ 11:24 am
Man. This song stinks and Crowded Table is meh, at best. I was SOOO excited and expected to be blown away. Now I’m trying to prepare myself for the massive disappointment when the full album comes out.
September 9, 2019 @ 12:09 pm
Old post but unit/if you get a review of the album up. Let me just say WOW! I like the album a lot!