The Highwaymen had "Highwayman," a song about outlaws sung by the outlaws of country music. It was written by Jimmy Webb, who imagined something like reincarnation for a highwayman (Willie Nelson) to a sailor (Kris Kristofferson) to a dam builder (Waylon Jennings) to a star-ship captain (Johnny Cash). Each of the Highwaymen got a verse, with space cowboy Cash dreaming of becoming a highwayman once more.
So when you've got a band featuring Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby called The Highwomen, who else do you get to co-write "Highwomen," your statement song and tribute to your namesake? Jimmy Webb, of course, who reimagines his 1985 original with significant contributions by Shires and Carlile.
But instead of killers and outlaws, the Highwomen are revolutionaries — Carlile the Highwoman ("For my children I did what I had to do / My family left Honduras when they killed the Sandinista"), Shires the healer, guest vocalist Yola the freedom rider and Hemby the preacher. Sheryl Crow also sings backing vocals and plays bass.
"Highwomen" not only features different lyrics than "Highwayman" and a rousing chorus, but also an extra verse sung by the whole group that ties their stories together:
We are The Highwomen
Singing stories still untold
We carry the sons, you can only hold
We are the daughters of the silent generations
You sent our hearts to die alone in foreign nations
It may return to us as tiny drops of rain
But we will still remain
The Highwomen comes out Sept. 26 via Low Country Sound/Elektra.