"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Chicks are back, and they're still pissed

They were just ahead of their time.

Now that George Bush's approval ratings are in the low 30's, primarily as a result of his bungled handling of the Iraq war, it doesn't seem quite so shocking to hear someone say that they're ashamed of the President. But three years ago, when America was much more gung-ho about Iraq, lead singer Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks nearly cost the group their career when she got on a London stage and proclaimed that she was ashamed to be from Bush's home state of Texas. The resultant furor over her remarks, including death threats, boycotts, and a ban by many radio stations on the Chick's music, was unprecedented. It probably didn't help that most of their mainstream country audience tends to be more conservative than the average person.

But now the Chicks are back with a brand-new fourth album entitled "Taking The Long Way", and are refreshingly unrepentant. Check out these sample lyrics from the first single "Not Ready to Make Nice":
I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
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
As Emily Robison says on the band's web site, "The stakes were definitely higher on that song. We knew it was special because it was so autobiographical, and we had to get it right. And once we had that song done, it freed us up to do the rest of the album without that burden."

The single is slowly climbing the charts in major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas, but other stations have refused to play the song due to negative reaction from listeners who still have a grudge against the Chicks. In St. Louis, for example, WIL-FM hasn't had the Chicks in rotation since 2003. The station gave "Not Ready to Make Nice" a trial run and decided against adding it to the playlist after listeners complained with calls and e-mails.

The new album was produced by Rick Rubin, widely known as a rock producer; Rubin crafted Johnny Cash's last albums. "Long Way" has a sweeping Southern California vibe to it, and is inspired by such classic rock artists as the Eagles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and the Mamas and the Papas.

The Chicks still are firm in their anti-war stance, and in their defiance of "fans" who criticized them three years ago. In January, Maines told Entertainment Weekly magazine that she was disappointed with country music and that she's "pretty much done" with the genre. You might say she's as mad as, er, a wet hen.

Their prior country-bluegrass sound hasn't been my favorite, but I'm going to buy the new album to show my support. You go, girls!

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