Release Date (CD): (May 23, 2006) Label: Sony Records Number of Discs: (1)
I cannot begin a review of the Dixie Chicks’ new CD Taking The Long Way, without saying a few words about the controversy surrounding the group after lead vocalist Natalie Maines’ remarks at a concert in the U.K. stating that she was ashamed that Bush was from her home state of Texas. That one remark, that exercise of free speech caused the denizens of the Bible Belt—the traditional supporters of the Dixie Chicks—to rise up in near unanimity and condemn her and the group for exercising the same type of freedom our troops are supposed to be securing in Iraq. A war I hasten to add, they, most roundly support.
I found the whole episode in which, Maines and her family was threatened with death, distasteful, ironic, very, very sad, and symbolic of the road most Americans have taken away from the principles that formed our nation. I have come to the realization that most Americans don’t really believe in the tenants that formed our nation; freedom is alright for them, but not for those who disagree with their belief system. The Constitution is just some quaint document whose time has come and gone, and the President is now King.
But I digress…or do I…
The cover of the Dixie Chicks fourth and latest CD Taking The Long Way is enough to covey to the listener what he or she is in for when they slide the CD into their CD player. One the cover, the Chicks appear stark, gaunt, somewhat pale and very, very serious. This is sharp contrast to the groups other CD’s.
Easily one of the most anticipated CD in recent memory;Taking The Long Way is the first release from the Dixie Chicks since 2002’s Home, which I continue to enjoy. While the Chicks other three releases have featured a few songs written by group, most notably banjo and steel guitar player Emily Erwin, all fourteen tracks on Taking The Long Way are co-written by the Chicks. These songs explore topics that are deeply personal to the three ladies and most, especially the first third of the CD—resonate with political overtones.
For Taking The Long Way the group collaborated with legendary producer Rick Rubin, who has produced with such notables as diverse as Johnny Cash, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Run DMC and Neil Diamond. The results is an album that drives a long distance from the Chicks first three offering and delivers a far more serious set of songs that draw their inspiration not from the Chicks fun-loving C&W roots, but from a well far more personal. And Rubin brought with him a diverse body of musical talent including Sheryl Crow who shares song writing duties on track No. 9 Favorite Year.
The effect for me is a mixed bag. One the one hand I applaud the trios courage in composing an album of songs that really relay to us what that simple sentence spoken so long ago, had had on them, their families, their political awareness, and their more importantly, the Chicks music. On the other hand, I miss the old Dixie Chicks, whose music was thoughtful, but spirit boosting; and deeply implanted in the core of the country. And I like that each member lent something tangible to the effort. Not that Taking The Long Way is a kill joy, or depressing to listen to, I just would have enjoyed a little more C&W instrumental infusion added to the indignation. As it is, there is far too much California inspired Folk and Rock influence for me, too many heavy electric guitar licks, and not enough steel guitar, dobro, banjo, viola, and fiddle.
But as Maines said in a recent interview, "[E]verything felt more personal this time…" I go back to songs we've done in the past and there's just more maturity, depth, intelligence on these. They just feel more grown-up." This is true they are more grown-up, more thoughtful and reflective, as if the Chicks have woken up from a long dream only to realize that they live in a country that has lost is way, and they feel the need, no the duty to clue us all in. And it tells in the lyric of the songs, which seem to address everything from the Chicks journey to enlightenment (track No. 1 Taking The Long Way), to small-town ignorance and intolerance (track No. 7 Lubbock or Leave It) to the occult of celebrity (track No. 4 Everybody Knows). And of course track No. 3 not Ready To Make Nice directly addresses the controversy over Maines’ remarks that began the Chicks painful journey towards political and personal illumination.
Emily Robison is quoted as stating that “[T]his album was about finding a balance in the different aspects of our lives…but there's something thematic there, too—it’s really about being bold."
But there is a soft side to the CD as well, and it is embodied in track No.6 Lullaby, a deliciously sweet love song that is so soulful, so beautiful, so melodic, and artfully done that even those that put down the Chicks music should happily buy the CD just to experience this almost six minute song. My advice: listen to Lullaby in a quite room; close the door and windows, turn off the television, and banish the children, and then listen. Listen to the sound of the long acoustic guitar come beautifully to life on the left channel and them Maines’s voice, soulful and warm chimes in. The two, guitar and human voice take us on a journey of love and devotion that reaffirm my belief in the ability or our species to create something of abiding beauty. And it that the viola I hear? Yes, yes it is, and it almost brings tear so sweet it the gorgeous tone.
Overall Taking The Long Wayis a good album that grows on me with each listen. Although I miss the lighter tones tat so marked the Chicks earlier work, the CD is not so stark, that the shift is unacceptable. To be honest the transformation of the Chicks started with their last album, Home. With Taking The Long Way the Dixie Chicks seem to be completing a personal journey into self-awareness and reflective citizenship. Sprinkle that with a strong dose of marriage and motherhood (all three women) it is easy to see (and hear) why Taking The Long Way constitutes an ending and perhaps a new musical beginning for the Dixie Chicks. And for that I have only applause and admiration for their courage to say what some of us are thinking. It underlines their talent that they were able to put it to music.
1) The Long Way Around (4:33)| 2) Easy Silence (4:02)| 3) Not Ready to Make Nice (3:58) 4) Everybody Knows (4:18) 5) Bitter End (4:38) 6) Lullaby (5:51) 7) Lubbock or Leave It (3:54) 8) Silent House (5:23) 9) Favorite Year (4:29) 10) Voice Inside My Head (5:52) 11) I Like It (4:34) 12) Baby Hold On (5:04) 13) So Hard (4:27) 14) I Hope (5:25)
Pros: Thought-provoking, reflective lyrics; Lullaby. Cons: Heavy California Rock influence. The Bottom Line: With Taking The Long Way the Dixie Chicks seem to be completing a journey into self-awareness and reflective citizenship. Release Date (CD): (May 23, 2006) Label: Sony Records Number of Discs: (1) I cannot begin a review of the Dixie Chicks new CD Taking The Long Way, … more
Nothing changes folks like babies and war, and since the release of their last album, 2002'sHome, the Dixie Chicks have been forever altered by both. If that album showcased the trio as precocious young adults,Taking the Long Wayfinds them sobered and matured, and in a grown-up state of mind. Produced by the celebrated Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers), who saw the Chicks as "a great rock act making a country album, not a country act making a rock album," their new record impresses both as beautiful sonic tapestry (peppered with myriad Beatlesque hallmarks) and forthright yet vulnerable portrait of three women shaken by the personal and political events of the past few years. As they make clear in the defiant "Not Ready to Make Nice," they still smart over the backlash from their 2003 Bushwhacking. But as they assert on the equally autobiographical "The Long Way Around," they could never "kiss all the asses that they told me to" and just follow others aimlessly--and silently--through life. This means that the Chicks are simultaneously prideful and scornful of celebrity ("Everybody Knows"), and that as new mothers they increasingly treasure the refuge they find in life with their families, out of the spotlight ("Easy Silence," "Lullaby," "Baby Hold On"). The push and pull of both passions drive this record, which also touches on the personal issues of infertility (with which sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison both dealt) and Alzheimer's (from which Natalie ...