Brandi Carlile forms The Highwomen, a new supergroup with Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, & Natalie Hemby

The Highwomen | photo by Nicki Fletcher | via

What’s better than one Country superstar? Four!

Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, and Natalie Hemby, some of the biggest names in Country, have come together to form The Highwomen. The band’s name is a play on that of the 1985 group, The Highwaymen. The Highwomen are the perfectly named answer to the male domination of Country music. Their mere formation, as well as their new single, celebrates women and all their strength.

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Listen to The Highwomen cover Fleetwood Mac for The Kitchen

The Highwomen | photo by Alysse Gafkjen | via

The Kitchen, the new movie starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss, needed a song to drive home its themes of female empowerment and resilience. It makes sense that Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” is the song they picked to soundtrack the film’s trailer. It makes even more sense that they got The Highwomen to cover it specifically for the film.

The group, made up of Brandi CarlileNatalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires, give the song some extra oomph with their thrilling harmonies. In addition to teasing The Kitchen, “The Chain” also lets fans know what they can expect from The Highwomen’s upcoming album.

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Dolly Parton was the surprise of all surprises at the Newport Folk Festival

Dolly Parton at Newport Folk Festival | via @DollyParton on Twitter | photo by Daniel Jackson

While we were busy with XPN Fest this weekend, some crazy stuff was going down at the Newport Folk Festival. And by crazy stuff I mean DOLLY PARTON WAS THERE. When Lucy Dacus arrived on XPN’s River Stage on Sunday afternoon, one of the first things she said was that she was in a daze because she met Dolly Parton the night before at the Folk Fest. We can’t blame you, Lucy! Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: K. Ross Hoffman’s alternate reality chart-toppers of 2016

The Monkees | still from video

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Key contributor K. Ross Hoffman imagines a world where these songs ruled the charts.

Sometimes reality just utterly fails to live up to even the most modest standards of reasonableness.  2016 was one of those times.  Or, actually, many of those times.  Fortunately, we music critics have a long-standing tradition of inventing alternate realities.  Granted, it’s mostly limited to the realm of the pop charts, which all things considered represented some of 2016’s lesser transgressions.  (Hey, the Chainsmokers’ “Closer” was only the #1 song in the country for a mere quarter of the year – it could have been worse!)  But just in case you feel like dreaming up a nicer, happier parallel universe version of 2016, you might as well have a re-tooled mainstream cultural soundtrack to go along with it.  Here are a few of the massively successful, inescapable smash hits of 2016… in my dreams. Continue reading →