The Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way

2006-08-24 11:16
Gallery: Naked on mag covers, clothed in cars

Once upon a time, country was proffered by crazy old coots, drunken rabblerousers and social rejects. Country was made by artists who openly spoke their mind and consequences be damned. These days, the social courage of the country establishment seems invested in aggressively defending the status quo.

But there are exceptions. The infamous fallout between The Dixie Chicks and America is now four years old. The outraged country music populace (the red states) never truly forgave Natalie Maines for saying that the Chicks were ashamed that George W. Bush was from Texas. Back then, rage and vengeance were foremost on the American mind.

But in 2006, the ‘War on Terror’ has gone on longer than first thought, and the American people have begun to suspect that the administration may not have been entirely truthful to the public about many things. So it is with a sense of irony that the once-offending sentiment is now shared by a majority of the people in America.

And for a group that was all but exiled for speaking their mind about a wartime president, The Chicks are – to put it earnestly – not too bothered. It’s back to personal business on Taking The Long Way. Uber-producer Rick Rubin adds to a platinum-coated CV with a nu-country album of modern musical sensibility, but classic country charm, wit, style, and structure. It is the perfect defusing device to a volatile dispute between the Chicks and their mainstay. There are slick, vivid descriptions; the opening lines of the album come to mind: “My friends from high school / married their high school boyfriends/ moved into houses/ into the same ZIP codes where their parents live” . But there are also broader, less specific strokes, which would leave the blanks open to your own ideas.

That’s not to say that the Chicks are any less sharp. Just that they do realise that the business of making and enjoying music is not a stick with which to constantly drive home a political point. The idea is to make good, singable and catchy music. The subject matter can vary, as it does well on the album.

One song that does seem to address the fracas is “Not Ready To Make Nice” – a self-explanatory little jingle that expresses a lot of anger, along with an acknowledgement that exacerbating a situation wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest. We could all take a lesson from that, sometimes.

Soundwise, most of the songs this time around are slow and sentimental, if a little introspective. Rich, warm vocal harmonies abound, inviting singalongs and side-to-side swaying. Album best includes the beautiful and sentimental “Favourite Year”, opener “The Long Way Round” and the gospel-coloured “I Hope”.

Dixie Chicks represent a hope for major-label country: that it is possible for music to have balls, even if it is softly sung… by three chicks from Texas. Recommended.

- Anton Marshall
Turns out its still possible for country music to have balls. Even if it's softly sung, by three Dixie Chicks from Texas.

What to read next: Kalahari

Goda 2006/08/23 5:47 PM
Dixies Like what these guys stand for. Their music? A bit bland for my tastes I guess.
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