August 25, 2002


The Dixie Chicks Keep the Heat on Nashville (BILL FRISKICS-WARREN, August 25, 2002, NY Times)
In the early 1990's, the Dixie Chicks were a cowgirl revival troupe playing for tips on the Texas dance hall circuit. By the end of the decade, they were Nashville, and pop, superstars. Their albums "Wide Open Spaces" and "Fly" sold more than 10 million copies each. They won a clutch of Grammys. Their 2000 tour grossed more at the box office than those of Bruce Springsteen and Britney Spears. Most striking of all, the Dixie Chicks achieved success not by cleaving to the conservative dictates of the country music industry but by taking risks that could just as easily have been big mistakes.

The three women — Natalie Maines and the sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire — cultivated their own sense of fashion, favoring post-punk, neo-hippie styles over the more conventional ensembles worn by their female counterparts. They insisted on playing their own instruments instead of employing the usual session musicians. They played banjo (Ms. Robison) and fiddle (Ms. Maguire), instruments often dismissed as quaint by country radio programmers. They sang about dicey topics like "mattress dancing" and doing away with an abusive spouse. Displaying a "love it or leave it" attitude like that of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and the other "outlaws" of the 70's, the Dixie Chicks reinvigorated the moribund Nashville music scene of the late 90's.

"Home," the album they'll release on Tuesday on their new Open Wide Records label, an imprint of Sony Music, is likely to shake up and challenge the Nashville establishment further, suggesting that it has lost touch with its roots.

How many times in music history has a genre's biggest crossover act been one of its most innovative? Or is it always so? Posted by Orrin Judd at August 25, 2002 4:34 PM
Comments for this post are closed.