Taking The Long Way - Dixie Chicks (Open Wide/Columbia - May 23, 2006)
I've been listening to country music my whole life, and I'm not afraid to admit it. So I remember when these guys hit the scene pretty hard in 1998 with Wide Open Spaces. It was a sound that was needed in the old-hat dynamic of the mainstream country radio genre at the time. Almost every act had been part of the Nashville machine for at least 10 - 15 years and their sound was fun, accessable and refreshing. It made them almost-untouchable superstars for the next five years.
But then came Natalie Maines' rather innocuous comment about being ashamed that George Bush was from Texas. The resulting backlash, the back and forth with white-trash superstar Toby Keith (who has since began backsliding about his loyalties) and the general media coverage of rabid country fans in protest made it an irritating and overblown situation.
With this new release they are trying to move forward, into the mainstream, or one might assume, away from the country genre. Taking The Long Way was produced by Rick Rubin, and is a step in a different direction, taking cues from Minnesota's very own, Jayhawk Gary Louris and on a larger scale, Semisonic's Dan Wilson. Not to mention the likes of Linda Perry, Sheryl Crow and even Keb Mo'. If you hadn't fallen for the previous sound of the Chicks, it would be an easier listen. First of all, there is no mindblowing stand-out on this album. It lacks a showstopper, for me these are Wide Open Spaces' "Let 'Er Rip", If I Fall(You're Going Down With Me) off of Fly and Home's Long Time Gone. I can't see myself doing the scream in glee and turn the stereo up high move in response to any of the songs. From the start it is an almost exhaustingly emotional album. Maybe I just want to put all the previous politics behind me, but from the sound of first single 'Not Ready to Make Nice," that won't be happening any time soon.
All this has it's place though, it tells the story, albeit a pretty sad story of what they went through, the backs that were turned, and this new journey. I can complain all day about how I wish it were like the previous albums. But they are still in there somewhere, in their always impeccable harmonies and telling lyricism.
Highlights: Favorite Year, Easy Silence & Bitter End