The Highwomen have made an incredible impact over the last couple of months – perhaps the most talked about act on the scene, if social media is anything to go by. Last Friday saw the release of the debut album by the four piece (made up of Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires). Today we offer up our ‘in the round’ review, where team members get together and give us their view on their favourite tracks from this very special album.
Loose Change – Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)
The song I have picked (to be honest, it could have been any from this superb album!) is Loose Change .
I was really happy and excited to see this appear on the track listing as it’s a song I remember vividly from Maren’s 2016 acoustic show at London’s Borderline (RIP, what a sad loss this venue is) where I heard it for the first time. Written by Maren, Maggie Chapman and Daniel Layus a few years beforehand I was immediately impressed by its very clever word play that evening and I was sorely disappointed that it didn’t make it on to Maren’s debut album “Hero” which was released later that year.
Maren naturally takes lead vocals on this one, with beautiful harmonies from her Highwomen companions, and it has been sped up (apparently at producer Dave Cobb’s suggestion) to give it a punchier feel. Originally written about a romantic relationship which started off so well but has since gone off the boil, the monetary analogies throughout are brilliant… “used to make me feel like a million bucks and now you got me feeling like loose change” Maren sings near the start. She feels undervalued but is convinced that one day she’ll be someone’s “lucky penny” .
But in the context of this project this song has taken on a whole new meaning as far as i’m concerned. I look at it from the point of view of female country artists not getting the recognition from the industry that they used to. “I ain’t worth a thing to you“…”you don’t see my value” …she sings in the chorus. Ring a bell at all? In the second verse Maren sings about wondering why she keeps setting herself up to fail… “stuck inside this game with you” …to me that’s now turned into a comment on how women continue to send songs to country radio but still fail to get airplay.
Am I over analysing things? Whichever way you decide to interpret the lyrics there’s no denying this is a great track.
Redesigning Women – Mel Osten (twitter.com/melosten)
The second track on the album is “Redesigning Women”. This song was the belting debut release from “The Highwomen” and from first listen, I instantly knew I was going to love this album! With Jason Isbell on guitar, this catchy, mid tempo song is basically about how women are living life going in so many different directions and trying to “do it all”. Written by Natalie Hemby and Rodney Clawson, the humorous lyrics tell the story of how women try to juggle life, “runnin’ the world while we’re cleanin’ up the kitchen“…but we can’t do it all and do it all well: “How do we do it? Halfway right and halfway wrong.” The vocal blend of these four women is stunning and this track leaves you craving more!
Check out the video below… and look out for appearances from Tanya Tucker, Lauren Alaina, Kassi Ashton, Cam, Lilly Hiatt, Wynonna Judd, Catie Offerman, Cassadee Pope, Erin Rae, RaeLynn, Natalie Stovall, Anna Vaus, and Hailey Whitters!
Crowded Table – Nick Cantwell (twitter.com/nickbelles_gals)
Similar to Lesley’s comments about ‘Loose Change’, I think ‘Crowded Table’ can be interpreted as a song about being a female in the country music industry from those within it, while also having a wider meaning for those living outside this bubble.
The song is about support. Being a support to others yourself and working together as a support network. The opening lines ‘You can hold my hand, When you need to let go, I can be your mountain, When you’re feeling valley-low‘ show that direct support. The crowded table title points to inclusion – they want a ‘crowded table’, where every artist gets a fair deal, irrespective of sex, race or colour. But they know this is going to be a slow process and take work, as suggested by the lyrics ‘If we want a garden, We’re gonna have to sow the seed‘ – you do get the feeling that the Highwomen have started that process already.
In a wider context, you could also say this is a song about coming together in these polarised political times. Right now it seems that many are one side or the other – this song suggests that if we can all come together it will be for the benefit of everyone. “If it’s love that we give, Then it’s love that we reap” – a message that we could all listen to at times.
If She Ever Leaves Me – Mel Osten (twitter.com/melosten)
With Brandi Carlile taking lead vocals, “If She Ever Leaves Me” is my stand out track on the album. This “old school” feel song written by Amanda Shires, Chris Thompkins and Jason Isbell, tells a story of a girl having an imaginary conversation with a guy who is checking out the girl she loves. She tells him about her love for her woman, and how they have faced tough times over their relationship, “I’ve loved her in secret, I’ve loved her out loud, the sky hasn’t always been blue”. She tells him not to bother chasing after her girl because he’s wasting his time… “if she ever gives her careful heart to somebody new, well, it won’t be for a cowboy like you”.
The track has all the traditional elements including some stunning pedal steel…always my soft spot!
Check out the official audio video below…