The Highwomen Share Their ‘Highwayman’ Rewrite at 2019 Newport Folk Festival [WATCH]
During their live debut on Friday (July 26) at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival, the Highwomen played the entirety of their self-titled debut album, out Sept. 6. The opening salvo of the album and the band’s shared live experience, “Highwomen,” alters prior country supergroup the Highwaymen's signature tune to reflect women’s experiences throughout history.
Band members Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby split verses that take the song's narrative from the Salem Witch Trials to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Yola, one of The Boot’s 2019 Artists to Watch, joined the Highwomen onstage and lent her voice to a verse about Freedom Riders and other brave women of the civil rights movement. Maren Morris, the fourth Highwomen, provides harmonies throughout the song.
Jimmy Webb (“Wichita Lineman,’ “Galveston”) wrote the original song, “Highwayman,” in the 1970s. Regular Webb collaborator Glen Campbell recorded it as the title track of his 1979 album, but it was in 1985 that the freshly formed Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson) took the song to No. 1. Carlile and Shires co-wrote the "Highwomen" version of the song with Webb.
In the Highwomen’s version, the group promises to “sing a story still untold.” Unfortunately, many of the mentioned dissenters get treated like side notes, if they’re noted at all, in popular historical narratives. With this song and others, the Highwomen look to rectify overlapping lacks of representation, from kids’ textbooks to radio programmers’ playlists.
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"Highwomen" is one of 12 songs on The Highwomen; the four women have already shared the studio versions of the song "Crowded Table" and their debut single, "Redesigning Women." The supergroup came to be, in part, because of a desire to foster connections between female artists and help continue the strong tradition of women in country music that the collective's members enjoyed growing up.
"Almost all of us are mothers of young girls. And we all grew up listening to country music," Carlile explains. "We recognize that we're in a time right now where our daughters don't have the same country music heroes that we had.
"Our goal is simply to elevate all women and completely abandon the concept of competing with one another," she adds. "So that we can let as many women through the door as possible, and give our girls those country music heroes that we all had."
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