I don’t usually post multiple New Music Friday posts about the same band let alone two posts in a row (though not two weeks since I missed last week while I was at the Newport Folk Festival actually listening to The Highwomen perform). I’m not super inspired by the couple of new songs that are not by The Highwomen, so I’m going to continue to share my love and excitement about this super group. I said it in my post about Newport and I’ll say it again here after seeing them perform at the Newport Folk Festival I am now ready to pay any amount of money and travel anywhere to see them again at what I’m sure will be a very limited tour when their album comes out in September. Somehow I feel like this is going to wind up with my trying to justify going to Nashville twice in the span of a year since I’m already meeting a friend there to see Brandi Carlile play at the Ryman in January.
Anyway, on with the music. Last Friday, The Highwomen released the second single from their forthcoming album, “Crowded Table”. Like their first single, “Redesigning Women”, this song was also penned by Natalie Hemby along with Lori McKenna. As they talked about during their Newport set it’s about making room for everyone. Right now in music, especially country music it can seem like a zero sum game in which instead of supporting other female artists you have to fight with them because there’s only so many slots the music industry will give them. This song is about doing the opposite of that and trying to make room for everyone at the table.
Today they also released a 100% Stevie Nicks approved (she shared it in InstaStories last night and it was super fun to watch all The Highwomen freak out about it) cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. Brandi has been covering this song in her live sets for years and it’s always been one of my favorite covers of hers. Now adding in the harmonies from the rest of The Highwomen plus Jason Isbell on the guitar just makes it that much better.
I’m refraining from posting a video the song I really want to share. If you don’t actually know who The Highwomen are it’s a country super group composed of Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby. Their name is a take off of the 80’s and 90’s country super group The Highwaymen composed of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. They had a song called “The Highwayman”, which The Highwomen have written updated lyrics for. I had never heard the original until this week and it does not even hold a candle to amazing harmonies coming from The Highwomen on their version of the song. They started their set at Newport with it and it might be my favorite song from the album. They haven’t released an official version of it yet, but there are definitely some videos of it from Newport floating around out there. I am Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde about cell phone videos at concerts. I never take them and generally want to throw away everyone’s phones when I’m at concerts. I’ve spent more shows staring at the stage through someone else’s cell phone than I care to mention, and it annoys me to no end. On the other hand I have certainly been happy to watch people’s videos after the fact to either relive some favorite moments of shows I’ve been at like re-listening to this song or to see amazing moments from concerts I wasn’t at, but I’m sure someone’s cell phone video is not really how they first wanted to share that song with the world. So I’m refraining from posting it, but you know if you really want to hear it I can’t stop you from using a little Google.
This week I have some country music for you, by ladies no less. I like country music, but it also makes me insanely mad with how awful it is to women artists. It’s crazy how it’s gotten worse instead of better. The 90s were full of women artists topping the country charts. Now you’re lucky if you hear a song sung by a woman once every three hours on country radio.
My old school clock radio (no exaggeration there as I’ve owned it since I was 8 years old) is set to wake me up to Baltimore’s country radio station. Generally the first thing I hear after I wake up is a segment on Nashville News. It drives me crazy how they will talk about women artists and then never, ever play them. Runaway June is one of them. Since I only listen to maybe 30 minutes of the station a day I even looked back through their playlists to confirm that I just wasn’t missing it. At least in the couple days worth of songs I looked through Runaway June didn’t appear once and the number of songs by women was paltry. It really makes me want to throw things.
Anyway, I first became familiar with Runaway June a couple of years ago when we took a trip to Nashville and they played at the Grand Ole Opry the night we were there. It surprises me that it took them this long to finally release a full length album. I’ve been enjoying it, and chose the song “Head Over Heels” to share here today because I like the word play. That’s something I think country music does really well. I’ve been particularly enjoying the word play in Morgan Wallen’s “Whiskey Glasses” recently as well. It’s good to know that there are still some excellent female country artists out there even if the country music machine is misogynistic garbage and refuses to play them.
I don’t have much time this morning nor do I think I have a whole lot to say about this song aside from that I love it. The beat reminds me a lot of David Bowie’s “China Girl” and I feel like some other 80s song I’m not quite putting my finger on (so if you know it let me know) crossed with the vibe of some of the more recent stuff by Stars. Anyway, I’m super digging it right now. Let it groove you into the weekend.
I’m cheating a little bit with this one calling it new because it’s really not. The song is from 2018. The full album it’s from didn’t come out until 2019, but even then it’s still a couple of months old at this point. It is however new to me and I’m guessing it will be new to most of you too, so I’m counting it. I discovered this song because Bhi Bhiman was a guest on the latest Switched on Pop podcast episode talking about his song “Beyond the Border” and the way he put out the album as a podcast. The album is full of songs about the political issues facing us today and the podcast apparently pairs the issues he sings about in each song with discussions with artists, activists, and policy makers. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but I certainly will be.
The song I’m talking about today is the “Beyond the Border”, which you may ascertain from the titles is about immigrants and refugees. I don’t really have much to say about the song that it doesn’t already say for itself. I find the chorus of the song to be incredibly profound.
“It’s like we’re an outbreak and they are the treatment.
They give us heartache and keep all the freedom.”
I look forward to digging into more songs on this album and the accompanying podcast.
I missed my new music Friday post yesterday just because I didn’t feel like writing anything yesterday. The world has conspired to make sure I post something music related this week though. I have adored the song “Remind Me” by Emily King since the first time I heard it last fall, but for whatever reason I never wrote about it here. Then Emily King kept showing up in my life this week. She was on yesterday’s episode of World Cafe, and then today I started listening to this week’s episode of the podcast Switched on Pop and it turns out it was a live episode with none other than Emily King talking about her song “Remind Me”. It felt like a sign that I should finally write about this song.
It’s a lovely little song about someone reawakening love in you after not experiencing it for so long. I love the groove that the song has. They talk in the Switched on Pop episode about things in the song that do things that you as a listener don’t expect like the down chorus and pieces of the chorus popping in at a slight syncopation so that it’s not on the same exact beat as the previous verse which provides a nice little aural surprise. It’s a very satisfying song to listen to.
I almost missed my connection to posting something for New Music Friday this week (ba-da-bump). I have a gross head cold. It’s the first head cold I’ve had in almost 3 years. It’s about as fun as I remember. I have a lot going on in the next few days for both work and fun, so I stayed home from work yesterday to rest up and try and knock it out. I didn’t wind up really sleeping at all last night, so I went into work for the one important meeting I had today and then came home again. Amidst all that I thought I might just skip my New Music Friday post this week because I didn’t have the energy to figure out what I was going to write about. Then The Head and the Heart dropped a new song in my lap today. I love The Head and the Heart. I’ve seen them in concert countless times. I don’t have the mental energy to say much about the song, but I do like it and look forward to hearing what follows.
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.