Dixie Chicks - Taking The Long Way
Prior to the Dixie Chicks’ controversial Shepherds Bush Empire gig in March 2003, the inoffensive blonde trio were known primarily for their three-part harmonies and soaring country pop like “Wide Open Spaces”. That all changed when lead singer Natalie Maines told the audience at that show that she was "ashamed" George Bush was from her home state of Texas. Suddenly, politics and the group’s steadfast condemnation of the Iraq war thrust the band to an uncomfortable limelight.
“Taking The Long Way” is the Dixie Chicks’ first release since that remark saw US radio stations turn against them. Perceptions of the band irrevocably changed, so has their music altered too? The presence of producer Rick Rubin and a host of collaborators – Sheryl Crow, Dan Wilson (Semisonic), Neil Finn and Keb ‘Mo – expand on the band’s traditional core values, yet amongst it all, they still retain their bluegrass roots.
“Not Ready To Make Nice” seems to directly respond to critics of the band, adamant they should retract their notorious stance, while opening track, “The Long Way Around” has a stubbornness in its lyrics no doubt shaped by the backlash the band suffered. Yet the beautiful “Easy Silence” displays the lyrical and musical simplicity that characterised the Dixie Chicks’ material before the furore, and “The Bitter End” makes liberal use of that old country staple, the fiddle.
“Taking The Long Way Around” is in many ways a reactionary record, yet the Dixie Chicks’ recent tribulations don’t seem to have done them any long-term harm; after the album’s US release the band became the first female band female group in history to have three studio albums debut at number one. If the last few years have taught the Dixie Chicks anything, it’s that the more things change, the more they stay the same.