WHO ARE THEY? Country music’s newest supergroup and self-described “collaborative movement” is this all-female ensemble featuring newly minted Grammy magnet Brandi Carlile, veteran songwriter Natalie Hemby, country-popster Maren Morris and southern rocker Amanda Shires. Fittingly, their handle recalls The Highwaymen, the outlaw supergroup that co-starred Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. (Or, as my wife quipped: ‘It would be better if they harkened back to a band called The Himen. Get it? Get it? Hymen? Get It?’)
WHAT IS THIS? Their much-anticipated debut album, which was produced by Grammy-winning Nashville producer Dave Cobb and features songwriting and/or musical contributions from a VIP roster that includes Sheryl Crow, Shires’ husband Jason Isbell, Carlile’s bandmates Phil and Tim Hanseroth, Lori McKenna, Miranda Lambert and Ray LaMontagne, among others. Guess they weren’t kidding about the “collaborative” thing.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A perfect balance of reverence, rebellion and reinvention. Stylistically and sonically, these dozen tracks harken back to the classic Music Row sounds of the late ’60s and early ’70s. But lyrically, tunes like Redesigning Women, My Name Can’t Be Mama and If She Ever Leaves Me are perfectly of-the-moment — and a dose of what the male-centric country scene needs at this particular moment.
WHAT WOULD BE A BETTER TITLE FOR THIS ALBUM? High & Mighty.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? Probably not with a roomful of dudes. Unless they happen to be enlightened ones.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Authentic, old-school, topical, harmonious, sincere, intelligent, purposeful, balanced, celebratory, warm.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? The ones listed above — along with the heroine-worshipping title cut, the playful Don’t Call Me and the maternal My Only Child.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAY? ‘Sometimes four heads are better than one.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? It’s not party music by any stretch, but it’s a fine soundtrack to a mellow setting.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE AN ENSEMBLE, WHAT KIND OF ENSEMBLE WOULD IT BE? A Western suit with a pussy hat.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Equal pay for equal work.