27.) Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way (2006)

Who would have thought at the tail end of the last decade that the Dixie Chicks would go on to become on the most controversial bands in the country? Probably no one, however if all they had going for them was controversy they wouldn't find themselves on this list. That they rode that wave of controversy and challenged themselves to be a better band makes them a story.

Prior to the whole "George Bush fiasco", the Dixie Chicks were a serviceable country group. In fact, their pre "George Bush fiasco" record Home was the best thing they had done up to that point. It was a really good record. Almost great. It wasn't what fans were expecting, but it was certainly something they could understand and digest. It's a nice record and, it just so happens, a record I liked a lot.

I was a Dixie Chicks fan before any of the hoopla. I had dutifully bought their records since Wide Open Spaces (I'm a sucker for good country singers and Natalie Maines is one of the absolute fucking best) and I saw them become something fantastically unfamiliar with Home. They became an honest to goodness no frills country group. I mean home was a bluegrass record for fucks sake. But then Natalie Maines told a crowd in England that she, like so many of us, was embarrassed of the ass we put into office and the Dixie Chicks became something no one would have imagined.

Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks deserve a ton of praise for not backing down from their stance...for not apologizing for feeling the same way as more than half of the country and they should be further lauded for recording a song as incendiary as Taking the Long Way's lead single "Not Ready to Make Nice" - for me the official anthem of the Bush administration. These women were flogged by the right and they justified it by claiming it would have been one thing had Maines said what she said on American soil, but because it was in England it amounted to treason. In a long history of slinging bullshit, that's one of the worst. Please! The Dixie Chicks' lives were threatened and they generally feared they would be attacked. All for practicing their right to say whatever the fuck they want about whoever the fuck they want wherever the fuck they want.

Phew. Anyway. Sorry. This isn't a political discourse, this is about a record. Taking the Long Way is a fantastic record and aside from "Not Ready to Make Nice" it's not that political. It's a great representation of what the Dixie Chicks do best and in turn it's their best record. Let me just say Natalie Maines is the kind of artist who, for me, could sing anything and I'd buy in, that she doesn't rest on these laurels only makes the Dixie Chicks more important in my eyes. Taking the Long Way is at it's best in it's quieter moments especially in "Easy Silence", "Silent House" and "Bitter End". Just beautiful songs all three. Sure, they're heart-on-your-sleeve lyrically, but I like that in my country music. Country music when it's done right, should be music you want to listen to with your family, maybe sing along to a few chorus' and then ultimately break some bottles and put on your shit kickers. Taking the Long Way touches all of these nerves and manages to both stay true to and transcend country at the same time. It's a really great record.

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