Thursday, June 01, 2006

Taking the Long Way

The Dixie Chicks have come back after all of the controversy (following lead singer Natalie Maines’ disparaging remarks about President Bush and the war in Iraq) unapologetically loaded for bear and, with the help of super producer Rick Rubin and some other famous friends (including Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, and Mike Campbell), they’ve delivered a very solid, feisty and tender and enormously entertaining, disc.

Country radio is shying away…especially with the soaring, defiant “Not Ready to Make Nice” having been released as the first single…but that didn’t stop Taking the Long Way from debuting at the top of both the pop and country charts with more than an half-million copies sold in the first week (nowadays radio is not nearly as important in generating CD sales as it used to be, of course.)

The twang in Maines’ voice is still unmistakable and the country flavor is still very apparent but this disc has more of a pop sheen than their earlier collections…and that’s not a bad thing. The Chicks co-wrote all 14 songs on the collection (Sheryl Crow and Keb’ Mo’ being included among the co-writers) and they deliver a nice set of songs. Maines is in fine voice both on upbeat tunes like the title track and the driving “Lubbock or Leave It” as well as lovely ballads like “Easy Silence”. There are some amazing harmony vocals as well…especially on the delicate, stunning “Lullaby”.

The disc ends with a fine new version of “I Hope”, the gospel-inflected song the Chicks co-wrote with Keb’ Mo’ and performed during a benefit for Hurricane relief last year.

The only drawback…and it’s a minor quibble…is that Rubin and the Chicks succumbed to the tendency to want to fill up the space on the CD by stretching songs to 4 or 5 minutes when some of them would have been just fine at 3 and ½ minutes or so. (But a lot of performers have done that since the compact disc became the dominant recording format and they will continue to do so.)

Taking the Long Way is a shining return to form after the mixed results of their last studio disc (2000’s Home) and it’s lovely to have the Dixie Chicks back.

1 comment:

Very Anonymous Mike said...

Amazon has it for just under $10.