The song “Common” by Maren Morris featuring Brandi Carlile was released as a single about a month ago, but it’s off of the GIRL, Morris’ sophomore album which comes out today. There are several reasons I wanted to write about this song today that actually don’t have much to do with the song itself.
It’s International Women’s Day, so it felt important to talk about a song written and sung by a woman. By now anyone reading this should know my love of Brandi Carlile. She has been out there fighting the good fight with her music and her foundation, The Looking Out Foundation, and in many other ways for a long time. She also talks a lot about forgiveness and finding common ground too, and this song is just another example of that. I don’t know nearly as much about Maren Morris, but I do know this new album is in part a response to her experience in country music where women are insanely sidelined.
That leads me into what I really wanted to talk about in this post and which this song is the perfect segue into. This week it was announced that Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, and Maren Morris are teaming up to form a straight up country super group called the Highwomen. The name is a nod to the Highwaymen, a super group formed by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson. I’m super excited about this and cannot wait to hear the music. They are all somewhat country adjacent in their musical leanings. Brandi is more Americana and folk than straight country. Amanda Shires stuff ranges from more old school traditional country to a more pop country on her newest album. Maren Morris is decidedly pop country and often leaning more on the pop than the country. Of course in many ways that’s mostly what country music is in many respects anyway these days. I’ll be curious to see in direction they go with this and what in their minds constitutes country music.
They are doing this to fight the fact that country music pretty much discounts women artists. It’s maddening. I personally way prefer female country to male country, but the powers that be seem intent on keeping women out and then blaming it on the listeners. It’s insane that country music has gone backwards in this. When I started listening to country music in the 90s there were so many female artists. Arguably they were bigger than the male artists at the time. And of course if you go back into country history there are some power house women. Brandi has been big on promoting other female artists and doing whatever she can to build up the next generation of women musicians. She grew up loving country and said she doesn’t want her daughters growing up and not having any female country artists to listen to. It remains to be seen whether country radio will play anything put out by the Highwomen. Maybe. I wake up to Baltimore’s country music station every morning and listen while I’m getting ready for work. They talked about this yesterday. Of course they had no idea who Brandi Carlile or Amanda Shires were. So we’ll see, but they talk about Kacey Musgraves all the time and all her success with her new album, but have I heard them play a single song from it? No I have not. No matter what the country music machine decides to do with this album I for one will be listening to the heck out of it whenever it drops.
And just one final amusement from this. They’ve all been posting lots of photos and videos this week as the Highwomen get to work. There were a lot of everyone involved getting Highwomen tattoos. Brandi Carlile got hers across the top of her spine and said it was so painful she wanted to stop partway through, but Jason Isbell, who is Amanda Shires’ husband, told her if she stopped now she would have a tattoo that just said MEN.
Anyway, “Common” is perhaps a little taste of what might be coming for us. The ooh oohs at the beginning of this song give me chills every time.