MUSIC SPOTLIGHT: New Releases – September 6th

Highlights from Friday September 6, 2019 Release Day 

This week I will only be featuring one album and the rest will be recommendations. Samples of everything will be on the playlist linked at the bottom of the post. I was going to do review both The Highwomen and Post Malone, but decided to give my full attention to the former. The Highwomen’s debut album might go down as one of the stand-outs for 2019 for its integrity, boldness, and being exactly what country needs the most. Hope you join me as we examine the fine work The Highwomen did for their self-titled album.  

The Highwomen – The Highwomen

Hopefully anyone with a little pop culture know-how have heard of The Highwaymen. This was an Americana music collective made up of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson that formed in the late-eighties and early-nineties. Most of their music spoke to breaking the law and being rebels as they run away from trouble. The Highwomen took the name and idea from these gentlemen creating an all female Americana collective that includes the talents of Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Marren Morris, and Amanda Shires. The major difference between these two groups besides the gender representation was that The Highwaymen were a collection of artists at the decline of their careers and The Highwomen are all talented young-women who have not even reached the peak of their careers. This puts more weight to The Highwomen’s efforts and makes me wonder if country music is about to be revolutionized. 

See, country music, as a genre has had a hard time growing and changing with the times. It is still a male-dominated industry and as a female artist it is hard to sustain a long lasting career. Only a handful make it to that level of notoriety. Country is also a genre that has a rather narrow definition of itself and out of all the genres it has been the slowest to merge itself into other avenues. People are quite protective of what country is and what country is not. Now, The Highwomen, if country fans allow it can be a huge revolutionary game changer for the genre. The music is old time Americana and country, but the lyrics and the reflections are modern yet staying in the proper story-telling lane that country prides itself on. All four of these women have wonderful voices and intelligent minds, teaming together made them four times more powerful and it is hard to ignore the message they are sending to everyone. Women are ready to be heard in country music. 

The album is packed with political messaging about the diversity and beauty of female strength. I listened to all twelve tracks in order and I found myself feeling as if I was listening to history. This album feels like a piece of art that will be celebrated and dissected thirty years from now as a transformative album that helped push music forward. This album feels like the type of album that in the future we are going to get some majorly genius female Americana artists who will point to this album as the launching pad for their creativity. In short, this album is history in the making and it might be slow progress, but the musicality, storytelling, and the masterful way these four talents are able to blend their strengths together will make it hard to ignore. 

Songs of Note: 

The first track of the album is entitled ‘Highwomen’ which acts as a declaration of what their name means and what they stand for. It is a song of many stories starting off with a brave mother leaving her home-country to the United States to protect her children, a woman accused of being a witch in the Salem witch trials, a freedom rider in the south fighting for Civil Rights, and a female preacher getting pushback for being a female religious leader. Highwomen are really women with high moral integrity who are willing to put themselves on a limb despite the pressure. This track is one of my favorites due to its storytelling and the wonderful music composition behind the emotional lyrics. 

Another track that also uses multiple stories to highlight the difficulties of being a woman is ‘My Name Can’t Be Mama’. This track has a fun old-school Americana tone to it, but the lyrics are progressive. At first, I thought it was going to be the typical motherhood is hard song, but it turned into something more. This song starts off with a couple verses about how being a mother cannot be the only title one wears and that being a mother is an imperfect tiresome job that requires separation. The last verse, is my favorite, being someone who has no kids of her own many times I get asked about having children. Marren Morris sings on this verse explaining that she does not want to be a mother yet. I enjoyed that this track brought all female perspectives onto it as they speak to the hardships of motherhood and the unrealistic expectations that people place on mothers. 

‘Redesigning Women’ is a track that speaks to the evolution of women and how the role of women has constantly been in-flux. It celebrates the strength, consistency, adaptability, and the diverse power that women have to do all things at once as the world pulls them in different directions.  

Other songs of note would be ‘If She Ever Leaves Me’ which is a love song from a woman to another woman. This type of song is rare in general, but in the country and Americana genres it is virtually non-existent. ‘Heaven is a Honky Tonk’ which has the best country beat to it, talks about how everyone is imperfect and that ‘perfect’ people will not be the ones who get to enjoy the after-life. There are also songs about loss, deciding to have only one child, and other songs that celebrate the diversity and complexity of being in a woman in 2019. 

The vocals are incredible and these four women sound like they were born to collaborate with one another. This is a once in a lifetime album that feels as if it is pushing a genre forward or at least asking hard questions. Until they answer, I am going to listen to it on repeat, and reflect on the Highwomen that came before me and how I can become a Highwoman too. 

Other Notable Releases from September 6, 2019 

  • Muna – Saves the World (Electronic Pop – 12 Tracks – American) 
  • Frankie Cosmos – Close It Quickly (Indie Rock – 21 Tracks – American) 
  • Alessia Cara – This Summer EP  (Pop/R&B – 6 Tracks – Canadian)  
  • Death Cab for Cutie – The Blue EP (Alternative Rock – 5 Tracks – American)  
  • Rubberband – Miles Davis (Jazz – 11 Tracks – American)  
  • Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding (Hip-Hop – 17 Tracks – American) 

Playlist of the Artists who Dropped Music on September 6, 2019 

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