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Date TimeSeptember 06, 2019
Voice(Low Country Sound/Elektra)The all-star quartet upend rootsy conventions to hit some rollicking highs – but can’t fully escape the classic pitfalls
The Highwomen: The Highwomen review – country supergroup shatter macho cliches
In 1985, Johnny Cash had to sing, with a straight face, arguably the silliest lyric of his career. Taking the final verse of Jimmy Webb’s Highwayman, a title song for the country supergroup of which Cash was a member, he stepped up to the mic and intoned: “I fly a starship / Across the universe divide.” In rewriting the song for their own supergroup, Brandi Carlile and Amanda Shires – joined by Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby – ditched the rippling muscles of the song’s original roles (as well as starship captain, there was a highwayman, a sailor and a dam-builder) in favour of a refugee, a doctor killed as a witch in Salem, a freedom rider and a preacher. It’s still a little hokey, but as a counter to the men-in-black outlaw concept of the original Highwaymen, it does its job, placing what is to follow in country’s lineage but also separating the Highwomen from old cliches: “Rosie the riveter with renovations,” as the second track, Redesigning Women, puts it.

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