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Dixie Chicks
“It's funny how the girls get burned
And honey as far as I'm concerned
The tables have turned”
- Don’t Waste Your Heart

One thing you can’t accuse the Dixie Chicks of is being docile. While the Spice Girls championed Girl Power in their shiny little dresses, the Dixie Chicks made a name for themselves with their strong lyrics and liberal opinions. But don’t dismiss them as feminists ~ Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison will take up any cause they have strong opinions about.

Country music’s former darlings are back with their fourth studio album, Taking The Long Way, after a four-year hiatus during which they toured and caused controversy. “This album was about finding a balance in the different aspects of our lives," says Emily, "but there's something thematic there, too ~ it's really about being bold.” Bold is an understatement when it comes to describing the Dixie Chicks. From the lyrics of their first major label release in 1998 to the lyrics of their latest album, the Dixie Chicks have displayed a feisty attitude that you wouldn’t want to mess with. These Texans have defied the conservative image of Southern belles and made no apologies along the way.

Freedom Of Speech
The Dixie Chicks were formed in 1989 with Emily, Martie, Robin Lynn Macy and Laura Lynch. They released three independent albums between 1989 and 1998, losing members along the way. Robin Lynn Macy left the band in 1992, and Natalie replaced Laura Lynch in 1995. With Natalie’s arrival, the ladies seemed to have arrived at the perfect combination of songwriting, music and group dynamics, and 1998’s Wide Open Spaces saw huge commercial success for the Dixie Chicks. The album climbed into the top five of the Billboard Top 200 Albums charts and saw the hits Wide Open Spaces, There’s Your Trouble and You Were Mine. They had a mellower sound than they are now more famous for, but Wide Open Spaces earned them a large following among country music fans. There was no yodelling or twanging on the album ~ just pure, heartfelt music. But the Dixie Chicks still sang about the conventional topics in music, namely heartbreak and love. Then came 1999’s Fly, giving a whole new spin on relationships.

Goodbye Earl was by far one of the most shocking songs country fans had heard in a long time. While it is a song about an abused wife’s success in killing her husband, the Dixie Chicks perform it in a most calm manner, singing more about taking care of yourself than about killing someone else. It was complemented with Ready To Run (which featured on the soundtrack of Runaway Bride), a song about having fun and not needing commitment. It’s possible to imagine the Dixie Chicks had a personal turnaround between albums, first losing boyfriends and then abandoning love altogether, but that isn’t the case. The Dixie Chicks were simply displaying an independent spirit.

2002 saw the release of Home, which the Dixie Chicks produced themselves. The first single was the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s classic hit Landslide, followed closely by Travelin’ Soldier, an anti-war song protesting the involvement of the US in Iraq. The Dixie Chicks had already begun to voice their opinions in public arenas, but now their opinions had crept into their music as well. Home was one of their most successful albums and earned them five Grammy Awards, including Best Country Album.

Taking The Long Way
Despite the controversies, the Dixie Chicks went back to the studio and recorded Taking The Long Way. They collaborated with producer Rick Rubin ~ who has worked with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, and Neil Diamond ~ to create a country album with a definite rock edge. “It was a very different style of working,” says Natalie. “You have to learn to relax and be okay with experimenting. We just knew we wanted to do something different, and that's scary.”

The result is an album that deals with issues close to the heart, including It's So Hard When It Doesn't Come Easy, which deals with infertility. Both Martie and Emily (who are now mothers of twins) have dealt with infertility, and the personal experiences make this a stronger album. “It's easier to write songs that are about other people,” says Natalie. “It's much harder to put yourself out there, but the songs are so much better and mean so much more when you can let yourself be vulnerable, and be honest with your emotions and your beliefs. Everything felt more personal this time. I go back to songs we've done in the past and there's just more maturity, depth, intelligence on these. They just feel more grown-up.”

You can read the rest of our feature on the Dixie Chicks in the June 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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