I stress that these are only preliminary findings, based on a first week of near-constant streaming; they do not embark on the important frontier of Emmylou Harris cross-over studies. I look forward to sharing research with other scholars of this pressing issue.
1: “Everyone is broken but everyone belongs,” Crowded Table
This obvious choice has been mentioned in most The Highwomen reviews for the obvious reason that it’s perfect and perfectly captures the expansive Highwomen ethos (and explains why so many are “accepting the invitation,” as Carlile says elsewhere.) It’s great not just because of the alliteration but also because of the shift in accent between broken and belongs: put the focus somewhere else, the line says.
2: “It takes more than whiskey to make that flower bloom,” It Won’t Be For You
Georgia O’Keefe all over the place.
3: “Full time living on a half time schedule/Always trying to make everybody feel special” Redesigning Women
I quoted this line yesterday on the phone to a friend as we were both having mid-week freak outs about managing school pick up and FEELINGS. Always trying to make everybody feel special! “I know you have a lot of strength left” sings mournful Kate Bush and I really thought that was going to be the forever best song about women’s work, but here The Highwomen are seriously capturing the zaniness of what happens as “the performance of affective labor…comes to increasingly trouble the distinction between work and play” (that’s Sianne Ngai, genius). Schedule and special almost but do not actually rhyme!!! And that is the truest thing to know about why women feel crazy, our tasks are all aslant!
4: “The bastards hung me from the salem gallows hill.” The Highwomen
I just love that even this sweet healer lady is like “they totally were bastards.”
5: Tie Between “I’d rip the filter from my mouth and all my cigarettes,” Old Soul, and “Raising our Brows and a New Generation,” Redesigning Women
I can’t choose between these two lines with their gorgeously deployed similar rhetorical tricks. Is it better how the singer in Old Soul imagines what it would be like to stop filtering both what’s going out and what’s coming in, what a dream that would be? Or is it better how “our” bodies and babies get all mixed up, raised together? You decide.
6: “If she ever leaves, it’s gonna be for a woman with more time / Who’s not afraid to let her dreams come true,” If She Ever Leaves Me
Whose dreams are they, in the second line? I love how the “her” is undetermined, it’s both of them, which seems to me like an incredibly wise things about relationships and how fears spread into limits. Also: time and fears. My heart.
7: “Maybe we’ll miss / Having four sets of china on the table” My Only Child
This whole song is an astonishment for even existing but I especially love the continuity between this line and the one in the chorus about “teaparties and daydreams,” the ways the two lines together capture how women imagine caring and miss caring and also love china their whole damn lives.
8: “And I’d take that ride again,” The Highwoman
We can’t believe we still have to be protesting this same damn shit, but nevertheless, we persisted.
Sarah Mesle, A Little Judgy