Review Summary: The Dixie Chicks fire back at all the people and events that had made their lives hell for the past few years, resulting in an emotional, yet catchy musical experience.
The date is March 10th, 2003 and we’re less then two years past the World Trade Center bombings, and we’re exactly ten days away from the eventual invasion of Iraq. The Dixie Chicks
were touring in England at the time and their vocalist made comments against our president and against the coming war during one of their shows there. Anyone who remembers that time period knows that the American people were up in arms to make someone pay for the WTC attacks and anyone that wasn’t for us was against us. Of course, the backlash against the Dixie Chicks
was instant. They were boycotted and slandered and called Un-American and un-patriotic. It’s worth noting that anyone that really knows the definition of a patriot would realize that the Dixie Chicks
were being patriotic in the most pure of ways by questioning their government. Of course, this could easily lead to a discussion about the differences between patriotism and nationalism, but since this is supposed to be a review we’ll assume the differences are known.
This brief lesson might not seem relevant to a music review, but after just one listen to this album you’ll realize that the feelings and pain caused by these events permeate throughout this album and are impossible to ignore. This is the album where we get to hear all the innermost thoughts and feelings that were going through the band members during this time period. We have an album that is steadfast in its decision to not back down from the things that were said, but it also shows that despite their resolve, the emotional price they were paying was steep. Due to this raw emotion on display and the unwavering nature of their convictions, the music immediately had a credibility that was lacking on their previous albums. Musically, not much had really changed from the older albums, it was still basically pop-infused country music, but the emotion in the vocals set it higher then the typical output in their genre. It was this credibility combined with solid songs that allowed them to transcend the boundaries between just another Country-Pop band designed for mass consumption to credible artists making a statement and suffering for it.
The album comes out swinging (lyrically) with the title track, “Taking the Long Way”. Over the top of some well played country-pop, is a song about standing up for what you believe in and doing what you feel is right, including such lyrics as “I wouldn’t kiss all the asses that they told me to…
”. From that line it is apparent that they were not going to repent for their past or just give in to try to make a few more dollars, although it is catchy and the chorus will stick in your head. Going from that song to the next track, “Easy Silence”, you get your first idea that despite their tough stance, this whole ordeal was tearing them apart inside. This song is a slow ballad, containing a simple acoustic guitar riff, some minor key sounds, and a violin. Admittedly, I acquired my love of violin within a modern musical palate from metal bands such My Dying Bride
and Celestial Season
, but the result on this song is still the same. The violin elevates the song to that next level emotionally and enhances the painful feelings that the vocals are already doing a great job of conveying. Lyrically, it’s a song about all the undue backlash and hatred she was receiving and how she was thankful that there were still those that were closest to her to shield her from the outside world and its scorn.
The third track, and first single, titled “Not Ready to Make Nice” deserves its own special mention for a number of reasons. Country music is a genre that prides itself on its unwavering nationalism (often misnamed as “patriotism”), so when the Dixie Chicks
dared to think for themselves country stations around America stopped playing their songs on the radio until such time as an apology was issued. Instead of an apology, the radio stations received this song as the first single, containing such lyrics as, “It’s too late to make it right, and I probably wouldn’t if I could, cause I’m mad as hell can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should…
” Also, within the song are scathing opinions on the people that were still holding a grudge, letting them know that she still sleeps fine at night and that they’re the ones that need to get over it. All of this peaks in the bridge when she says, “Made my bed and I sleep like a baby, with no regrets and I don’t mind saying it’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her daughter to hate a perfect stranger…
”. The lyrics continue from there, but I’m sure that you get the idea by now. Musically, it’s another well written country-pop song with acoustic guitars, keyboards, violins and an instantly catchy chorus.
From here the album continues with the same formula of catchy country-pop songs that are either ballad-paced or mid-paced in their delivery, all based around acoustic guitars, and all done very well. Also, the lyrics keep up the same theme of having an unapologetic attitude when it comes to your beliefs, combined with the very real warning that sometimes you will suffer for those same beliefs. Despite the fact that there are really no surprises on this album, and it sticks to its theme with conviction, it doesn’t detract from the album at all, as not all albums need to be a surprise at every turn or require ten listens before it can be appreciated. One of the few surprises that is on the album is the lamely titled “Lubbock or Leave It”, which is a good country-rock song featuring a pretty deep sounding guitar riff, subtle keyboards, as well as a banjo and violin that provide some fairly interesting melodies.
Overall, this album really could appeal to those teens that looked to Avril Lavigne
for their rebellion only to discover that it was prepackaged and disposable. It should also appeal to those that like country music in general as I don’t see anything other then issues I mentioned earlier that might make someone not enjoy it. Really, though, despite any genre label, at the end of the album what we have is a good catchy collection of songs that do a great job of eliciting an emotional response from the listener or at least do a very good job of conveying the emotions of the vocalist herself, and for me that is enough sometimes. If you can at least stomach a band like Kelly Clarkson
, but wished the lyrics and music had a little more substance, then this might be what you’re looking for as it is a very good piece of music regardless of genre. For those that noticed that I had nothing negative to say about the album, it’s because there is nothing negative about this album for those into this style of music. The reason it only receives a 4 from me is because I can count the number of country bands I like on two fingers, and didn’t think I was the authority to say whether or not it was a classic or near classic within their genre, but it is definitely an enjoyable experience for those into similar bands regardless.