Chicks come home to roost


Some of you don’t like the Dixie Chicks. That’s a shame. Those three ladies are among the finest musicians and performers in modern country.

You might not like them because they play country music. I’ve never been a huge fan of country, so I understand.

You might not like them because they’re outspoken. Maybe little ladies shouldn’t say those things and just shut up and play.

That’s a shame. For country music. For honest dissent. For America.


The group’s latest CD “Taking the Long Way” arrives Tuesday, which is why you may have noticed a surge of media coverage. After all, the last time we heard from them, they insulted the president on the eve of war, posed naked on a magazine cover and were unapologetic about any of it.

Some fans were pissed. Country radio stopped playing their singles — at the time, “Travelin’ Soldier” was at the top of the charts, a timely number about an American soldier fighting in Vietnam. People destroyed their CDs and sent death threats.

I don’t care much about artists’ beliefs; I concentrate on their art. But the Chicks impressed me; they spoke their minds, even when very few agreed or even cared.

I remember when they started to break and their single “Goodbye, Earl” raised a ruckus. The song celebrates the murder of a no-good abusive sumbitch at the hands of his wife. It seems more people were outraged about her revenge than the actual beatings from good ol’ hubby.

I love that song. It’s clever and upbeat and funny and ultimately sad, because the Earls out there don’t get their comeuppance in this world. I love that it pisses people off for all kinds of reasons. And it raises awareness of a horrible situation.

In less capable hands, a ditty like that would’ve been preachy or horrific. In their hands, a hit single and an indelible message.

Stand up for yourself. Your life may depend on it.

So I’m not sure why anyone’s surprised that in 2003, they were as outspoken then as they are now as they were from the start. People are still upset with them, their words and their actions. People gotta be mad about something, I guess.

Certainly country radio doesn’t want to play the first single, “Not Ready to Make Nice.” But country radio, like all corporate radio these days, is formatted and focus grouped to death. Why anyone still bothers with radio is beyond me. The competition for new music is fiercer than ever, and yet radio sticks to breaking a handful of semi-talented middle-of-the-road artists.

Country radio is less about country music and more about flag-waving, support our troops and empty jingoism. And that will hurt CD sales, when you can’t reach your base audience through traditional means.

Fortunately, other options have arrived. My MySpace page plays that song each time you open it. You can hear the whole CD streamed via MSN.

And before the CD is even out, “Not Ready to Make Nice” is already a top downloaded single. Country radio, like all terrestrial music radio, is becoming as relevant as wax cylinders and eight-track tapes.

By Tuesday night, the CD will have already downloaded automatically into my iTunes. By the weekend, I’ll be humming the songs.

In 2003, the Dixie Chicks said they were ashamed to be from the same state as the president. The bigger message was that they disagreed with the Commander in Chief, and that irritated the loyalists and conservatives. In 2006, 70 percent agree with the Chicks, even if they can’t stand them or their music.

You don’t have to make nice, but you do have to stick to your guns.

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More on the Dixie Chicks: Loud and proud, live in concert


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