Totally Biased Fan Review: The Highwomen – self titled

The Highwomen

I am saying it now, though I have said it before this year. This is one of the most amazing albums of the year. 4 gals who are just bloody awesome. This album is so very country.  If you look at the songwriters and contributing artists on the album, it won’t be hard to guess why.

The Highwomen are the female version of the Highwaymen respectfully and respectively. They are: Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby and Amanda Shires. With guest appearances by such artists as Sheryl Crow, Yola Carter and Jason Isbell, and co writes with Jimmy Webb, Lori McKenna and Miranda Lambert, you have to say…Yee Haa and ooh wee….

This album brings America back to Nashville as it should be and it is in many ways, always.

The strong female vocals, the twang, the strong lyrics and that good old Nashville sound are there.

There is a bit of honky tonking, There is a bit of toe tapping and a lot of hand clapping and shoulder shifting. There are some wonderful echoes of 70’s and 90’s country music. Thank you.

The prolific Dave Cobb produced this album.

There is a touch of The Dixie Chicks and Trio here.

My only Child and Redesigning Women are my favourite tracks.

This is a beautiful album. Full of great harmonies and musically sharp and well intentioned.  This is the most incredible album from some of American country’s best.

Ahhhh. Cocktail and a Song…..what a bloody magnificent song. I could listen to this album 50 times over in a row.

Thank you gals. It is a rippa. (Aussie talk for fabulous).



“Highwoman” (featuring Yola Carter and Sheryl Crow)
Brandi CarlileAmanda ShiresJimmy Webb
“Redesigning Women”
Natalie HembyRodney Clawson
“Loose Change”
Maren MorrisMaggie ChapmanDaniel Layus
“Crowded Table”
CarlileHembyLori McKenna
“My Name Can’t Be Mama”
CarlileMorrisAmanda Shires
“If She Ever Leaves Me”
ShiresJason IsbellChris Thompkins
“Old Soul”
MorrisLuke DickLaura Veltz
“Don’t Call Me”
ShiresPeter Levin
“My Only Child”
HembyShiresMiranda Lambert
“Heaven Is a Honky Tonk” (featuring Sheryl Crow)
CarlileHembyRay LaMontagne
“Cocktail and a Song”
“Wheels of Laredo”
CarlileTim HanserothPhil Hanseroth

The Highwomen
Brandi Carlile
Natalie Hemby
Maren Morris
Amanda Shires
Yola Carter – guest vocals
Sheryl Crow – backing vocals
Phil Hanseroth – backing vocals, guitar
Tim Hanseroth – backing vocals, guitar
Jason Isbell – guitar


Totally Biased Fan Review: Spectacular Heartbreak – Hayley Marsten (E)


I have not yet received the physical album, so I don’t have all the details. I was impatient and also downloaded it from iTunes. My preferred way is to review from the physical so that I can give credit to the writers and the musos who worked on the album, but it is what is is.

I supported this release by contributing, albeit a small amount. I think that Hayley is amongst our best female country artists today. She may not have the high profile of some others, but Hell, yeah, she has the talent and the spirit.

It has been mentioned that she is great at marketing her music, considering that she is relatively new on the scene and that she may be different to a lot of others going around. Personally, I think that both elements work for her. I am a ballad girl, everybody knows that. I love these songs,

Australia is blessed at the moment with great singer/songwriters in this genre. The song, Wendy, touched our hearts. From that moment, we knew that whatever was going to be released by Hayley was going to be pretty special.

Patty Loveless sounding Hayley in many ways, makes me feel encouraged that Aussie Country Music will remain sounding like Country Music but also it allows room to be reached by others outside the country music fan base.

Her vocals are strong, the album sounds polished and tight.  It allows a certain amount of space to be flexible and melodic.

I think that Green and Blue is my favourite, though Wendy hit me in between the eyes when I first heard it. I had the great pleasure of hearing Hayley at one of the Songwriters in the Round at Tamworth this year and I just loved her songs.

It is more than that, though. When I hear a special artist there is something beyond the songs and the singer. There is a haunting quality, a special connection that makes you just feel….hey….support this girl.

I had no hesitation when it came to the Pozible campaign. I wanted this young lady to record these beautiful songs and get it out there to the folks.

The latest song, Red Wine, White Dress is typical of the faith that I had in her.  Her music is full of soul and twang. There are some sensual tracks, like Watch me Dancing.

I think Hayley is headed for a long career in Country Music. She has a very strong country sound to her voice, yet she is adaptable. She can flex between the 79 types of country music.

Cry in your beer is the drinking song that we all have to listen to as country music fans and probably the reason for the E rating.

Or maybe Pretty is. It is actually one of my favourites. This gal certainly can belt out a tune but she can also sing one that makes you listen intently and understand the lyrics. It is sort of a companion piece to Am I not pretty enough by Kasey Chambers. Not exactly the same, but a good partner.

Call it a day is a beauty. Boy this gal has chops.

Time I have – will break most of us this year. There have been a few things this year in the country music family and my own that are linked closely to these lyrics.

Hayley, this was a great surprise in some ways and in others, I truly expected it. I am glad that I bought it twice, worth every cent.

Come on Australia, spend your hard earned on a truly wonderful home grown artist.


Track Listing

Spectacular Heartbreak
Hitch Your Wagon
Grocery Line
Green and Blue
Watch Me Dancing
Cry in Your Beer
Red Wine, White Dress
Call it a Day
Time I Have

Totally Biased Fan Review: The Weir – Michael Waugh

The Weir Michael Waugh

I love Michael Waugh.  He is the Paul Kelly of Australian Country Music, though Paul Kelly could be defined, sometimes, as the Paul Kelly of Country Music. He has won a few Golden Guitars at Tamworth. Michael’s hometown is just up the road from where I live now. I am going to the launch of this album on Sunday at Maffra, which is the town in question. He writes a lot about his hometown, his Mum’s hometown, Heyfield which is only a spit away from Maffra and the Gippsland area of Victoria in general.

The last album review of Michael’s that I did was described by the man himself as something that his mum would write. That was not a put down, merely a statement of fact. I actually treat the musos whom I review as family members. I only review people that I love.

I always relate to Michael’s songs, albeit from a female perspective. I know the places now that Michael sings and writes about. I know the ambience of the area and folks that he writes about and I know the emotions and stories back to front and front to back.

I have always said that Michael makes you laugh and makes you cry, sometimes in the one line.  I recently saw Michael supporting Shane Nicholson in St Kilda. Shane produces this album, as he has produced the other ones. It is an apt fit. these two know how to tick boxes and get to the heart and mind with their music and lyrics.

Michael doesn’t just tell stories about Gippsland, Maffra and Heyfield. He captures the Australian Spirit. On this song reminds me, he chucks an Aussie Billy Joel and rattles off influences and great Aussie artists. Two that he mentions, Goanna and Redgum, provide some very strong insights into Mr Waugh’s music. There are some very strong connections to Michael’s music there.

Local connections include Warragul, Seaspray, Down in the Valley and The Weir, Last Drinks. Family is a strong influence here, with members mentioned thickly.

As I have mentioned in previous reviews, Michael (like Matt Scullion – who is similar in many ways), makes the ordinary moments and subjects, extraordinary.

Like I Used To is one of my favourite tracks. It is a real and adult portrait of a love story which has morphed from one thing to another to another. So honest and true like Michael Waugh songs are.

Born Here is more Australian than any Aussie anthem, apart from Matt Scullion’s Aussie As and The Seekers’ I am Australian.

Big Things is also a quintessential  Aussie song. It starts off as a bit of a humourous song about the Aussie thing of building big things: Big Banana, guitar, etc but then gets more sentimental and basic by describing small town memories.

A lot of Australian Country Music Artists these days have a strong American twang. Michael is so Australian that you can smell the snags on the barbie and you are likely to get a boomerang hitting you in the head while you listen to the songs.

Michael is a well respected songwriter amongst his peers. All of his albums paint a picture of who we are and where we are as a country and its peoples. Michael has a way about him that on one hand touches your heart and on the other hand makes you think.

Last Drinks is a great song to end with. It ties it all up, really.

You have to take note of these two legends, they say it better than I can.

​“Michael Waugh’s words count for something. His songs are like falling into a movie. It’s a special thing to see a song. Michael’s ability – his gift – is to take tiny, corner-of-the-eye, ordinary moments and sing them into something significant – powerful and memorable and moving. In the cracked earth of The Weir, Michael Waugh has unearthed rare treasures indeed.”
– Colin Buchanan

“The Weir is a lyrical and musical tour de force. These songs have few equals in the current Australian music scene.”
– Eric Bogle

I will be seeing two of my favourite Michael’s this weekend. One of them, I intentionally hoped to see in his home town. I hope to meet his real family, who I feel like I already know through his songs, but also because I am part of his country music family.

Michael, we love you for good reason. Thank you for your honesty, authenticity and the fact that you are just you, without any excuses.






01. The Weir
02. Big Things
03. This Song Reminds Me
04. Mary Lou
05. Be There
06. Search Party
07. Down In The Valley
08. Warragul Police
09. Seaspray
10. Like I Used To
11. 50 Words
12. Born Here
13. Last Drinks