Taking the Long Way
Full disclosure: Had lead Dixie Chick Natalie Maines never uttered the sentence that turned her innocuous country-pop trio into America’s prettiest punching bag—“We’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas”—and made it OK to, you know, like the Dixie Chicks, we never would’ve bothered to listen to this new record. But then, if none of that had ever happened, the Chicks wouldn’t have made this record. Don’t let the opening twangy notes fool you—most of the lame new country that made them stars has been leeched from Taking the Long Way. It’s undeniable that the group was headed toward solely pop, but to do it now is yet another middle finger to the country fans who threatened the Chicks’ lives and mowed over their CDs in bulldozers. With Rick Rubin and songwriters Dan Wilson of Semisonic (who never met a hook he couldn’t lodge in your head) and the ubiquitous Linda Perry in the house, the songs here are lush and beautiful with an angry heart and a powerhouse voice in the centre. When she’s not singing about being betrayed, being brave, being pissed, being defiant, being ostracized or being tired of it all, Maines sings of love, real and imagined, romantic and otherwise. “It’s so hard,” she muses, “when it doesn’t come easy.” A lesson learned, in this instance, by both artist and listener.