Pop Culture

The Summer of Women Who Rock: Newport Folk Festival 2019

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The times, they are a-changin’ for women in the #MeToo era.

We have seats at the table, and we’re setting it to make room for more of us. We have marched on Washington, and all over the country, more than once. A record number of us serve in Congress, and are running for President. We’re in the vanguard of calling for common-sense gun reform, including Moms Demand Action. Hundreds of men at society’s highest heights are being held accountable for gross abuses of power, recent and remote. Americans finally see women as competent or more so than men, says a new study by the American Psychological Association.

Pop culturally, too, sisters are doin’ it for themselves. Bare Necessities was there when, for the first time in its 60-year history, gender literally took center stage at the preeminent Newport Folk Festival, headlined last month by an all-women supergroup of sorts featuring post-feminist icon Dolly Parton, Judy Collins, Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Linda Perry, Amy Ray and countless more instrument-wielding professional music-makers. After that gauntlet-throwing, star-studded statement, it’s clear that if you’re going to a music festival just to make the scene, you’re probably going to the wrong festival.

Listen to what these bold, tremendously talented women have to say about this moment in herstory.

The Highwomen, “Redesigning Women”

Country music’s first all-female supergroup features Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, country-pop star Maren Morris, folk-Americana violinist Amanda Shires (whose husband Jason Isbell, a star in his own right, silently played back-up) and hit country songwriter Natalie Hemby. Newport was their very first concert appearance. Though they have crafted a self-titled album (dropping September 6) full of witty songs about the likes of gay cowboys and the occasional need to take a day off from being a mother, this first single gets at the heart of the stereotypes and double-standards we face…just before throwing them in a bonfire.

The Highwomen “Redesigning Women” lyrics:

Pulling up the floors and changing out the curtains
Some of us are saints and some of us are surgeons
Made in God’s image, just a better version
And breaking every Jell-O mold
And when we love someone, we take ’em to heaven
And if the shoe fits, we’re gonna buy eleven
How we get it done, we like to keep ’em guessing
But secretly, we all know

Redesigning women
Running the world while we’re cleaning up the kitchen
Making bank, shaking hands, driving 80
Trying to get home just to feed the baby
Skipping the bread for the butter
Changing our minds like we change our hair color
Yeah, ever since the beginning
We’ve been redesigning women

Kacey Musgraves, “High Horse”

Though she proudly wears a country label, @SpaceyKacey has been shattering the mold since her first album, “Same Trailer Different Park.” Fresh (as in both new and saucy), laissez-faire lyrics about same-sex relationships, smoking pot and the possibility of reincarnation distinguish her from the uncontroversial Carrie Underwoods of her peer group and earn her comparisons to icons like Loretta Lynn. Cosmopolitan just called her one of the “country stars [who] are saving country.” She stripped her latest studio release, “Golden Hour,” of her typical pyrotechnics and trappings at Newport and, in her video for “High Horse,” dials up her dance-y side in a disco-tinged kiss-off to every smarmy guy she’s had to deal with.

Kacey Musgraves “High Horse” lyrics:

Oh, I bet you think you’re John Wayne
Showing up and shooting down everybody
You’re classic in the wrong way
And we all know the end of the story

Darling, you take the high horse and I’ll take the high road
If you’re too good for us, you’ll be good riding solo

Yeah, I think we’ve seen enough
To know that you ain’t ever gonna come down
So, why don’t you giddy up, giddy up
And ride straight out of this town

Sheryl Crow, “Prove You Wrong”

Since the “Strong Enough” era, Crow has walked the walk and talked the talk of a woman boldly making her way in a man’s world. But if there was any lingering doubt, “Threads,” her eleventh release (out August 30), cements her place in the stratosphere. It’s full of megawatt collaborations with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Maren Morris, Margo Price and St. Vincent, plus coolly confident covers of XY rock gods no less than Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.

Sheryl Crow “Prove You Wrong” lyrics:

It wouldn’t take much to prove you wrong
I got my mind made up and my high heels on
It wouldn’t take much to prove you wrong

You said if you left
I’d be laid up in a bed of tears
I’d be going crazy ’cause without you baby
I’d be sad and lonely ’round here

It wouldn’t take much to prove you wrong

You’ve been too busy talking
To even see me walking

Jade Bird, “Cathedral”

Rolling Stone named singer-songwriter Jade Bird one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” in 2017; pop culture is now catching up. The 21-year-old English singer-songwriter grew up around the world in an Army family, and you can hear her preference for American folk-country in her acoustic arrangements and gorgeously gritty vocals.

Jade Bird “Cathedral” lyrics:

I woke all in white
Right in the middle of the knife
I hoped that you knew that I had left you with no reason why
And I know I wasn’t kind
And you probably lost your mind
But, oh, I couldn’t find one reason not to run a mile

I heard it from the aisle of the cathedral
Baby, I was gonna break your heart
Even in the path of something lethal
Knew we had to stop before we started

And we torture each other and wonder why
We ever promised until we died

And I swore that I’d never leave you behind
But I’ve seen the light, oh, I’ve seen the light

Yola, “Faraway Look”

Defying both her parents’ wishes to find a practical career and, later, assumptions about what style of music she should be performing, Yola has been resolutely pursuing writing American country songs from her home in England since 2016, working with The Black Keys and Massive Attack on the way to a solo career. “Walk Through Fire,” her deeply personal professional debut, was released this past February. Just listen to the pipes that made her the must-hear songstress of festival weekend:

 Yola “Far Away” lyrics:

You lit the candles on the cake
And threw the match down on the floor
Wish I knew what you were wishing for

Handing out the paper plates
To all your friends that you adore
Are you haunted and wanting more?

That faraway look in your eyes
It’s getting harder to disguise

Courtney Marie Andrews, “May Your Kindness Remain”

Indie meets Americana in Courtney’s unique sound. Her 2018 album “May Your Kindness Remain,” named one of the 25 Best Country and American Albums that year in Rolling Stone, is getting the former Jimmy Eat World accompanist noticed for her soaring take-me-to-church vocals and evocative lyrics from a distinctly feminine point of view, like the ones of the title track:

Courtney Marie Andrews “May Your Kindness Remain” lyrics:

You’re a good woman, and a good friend
You’ve got a good heart, even when it’s busted and bent

The richest of people aren’t rich with houses, cars, or fame
No, they’re not rich with something that can be bought, or arranged
No, it’s kindness that makes them beautiful
And a kind heart don’t cost a dime

It’s a gift that keeps giving for the rest of your life
And if your money runs out, and your good looks fade
May your kindness remain

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Brooke Glassberg
Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.
Brooke Glassberg

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