Release Date: May 7, 2013
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Country, Contemporary Country
It's been a decade since Natalie Maines said a few choice words about George W. Bush and set off the biggest flame war in country-music history. Overnight, the Dixie Chicks became pariahs, and the role suited them: They broke with Nashville, hooked up with Rick Rubin and recorded their tautest, most tough-minded album, 2006's Taking the Long Way. Now, Maines returns with a solo LP – and she wants no part of country whatsoever.
Back in the early 2000s, the Dixie Chicks seemed unstoppable. A near unprecedented run of widely acclaimed platinum-selling albums made them the belles of every Nashville ball; their sassy demeanor and sly singles like ”Goodbye Earl” brought them to a whole new pop audience. Then came frontwoman Natalie Maines’ infamous onstage takedown of then President George W.
The lines that separate country music fans from, well, fans of any other style of music are some of the most blindly protected and strictly observed separations that occur in this country. If I were to bet on a Republican from Biloxi to vote for Obama or a Mac owner in San Francisco to try out a Dell with his new computer purchase, both would seem more likely than a Williamsburg barista giving a Brad Paisley album a listen based on someone’s recommendation. Back in the days of Myspace, music preference was so commonly listed as “anything but country” that it should have been a default option.
There’s a poignant scene in Shut Up and Sing, the 2006 documentary on the Dixie Chicks, in which Emily Robison and Martie McGuire openly muse about their fear that their erstwhile country band is being pulled into rock music, something which they feel is an uneasy fit for their fiddles and mandolins. They’ve hooked up with veteran rock and hip-hop producer Rick Rubin, have begun to work with songwriters like Gary Louris and Sheryl Crowe, and (perhaps most alarming of all) their lead singer, the brash and unstoppable force that is Natalie Maines, seems to fit this new sound like a glove. While listening to some tape of their day’s work, they debate the reasons why good bands so often break up, and this insecurity comes to the fore: “Well, he could go solo.
Natalie MainesMother(Columbia)3.5 stars out of 5 A decade ago, the Dixie Chicks were on-top of the country music world. As they were beginning a tour overseas and enjoying the success of “Traveling Soldier,” their Bruce Robison-penned number-one hit, their careers were forever altered. On that fateful night of March 10, 2003, Natalie Maines hastily went Bush-bashing in front of a London audience, which quickly turned the southern sweethearts into enemy Number One here in the States.
There's something almost timid about erstwhile Dixie Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines's solo debut, Mother. Maines has kept a relatively low profile during the nearly seven years since Taking the Long Way cut the Chicks' ties with country music. For an artist as well known for her outspokenness as for her extraordinary voice, to break such a lengthy silence with a conservative, tasteful-to-a-fault covers album like Mother speaks to an underlying uncertainty on Maines's part.
After the double-platinum Taking the Long Way in 2006, the Dixie Chicks went on hiatus in 2007 after winning three Grammys; they had nothing left to prove. They'd successfully beat back the infamous country radio blacklisting they experienced in 2003 after Natalie Maines' comments about president George W. Bush during the Iraq war. They re-emerged in 2010 with a string of dates with the Eagles and Keith Urban -- the same year that sisters Emily Robison's and Martie Maguire's side band, the Court Yard Hounds, released their self-titled debut.
The lead singer of the Dixie Chicks has been out of the spotlight since she and her bandmates, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, swept the Grammys in 2007 with their superb album “Taking the Long Way.” While Maguire and Robison released their side project the Court Yard Hounds in 2010, Maines mostly receded into family life. Her return to music is a quiet triumph. For the most part she has flown the Chicks’ country coop for this solo debut, which is a well-curated mostly covers affair.
Voltaire said, "Originality is nothing but judicious imitation," and with nine out of 10 tracks on Mother being covers, Natalie Maines takes that assertion to heart. After years of silence following the promotional cycle for the Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way in 2006, the group's leader, in collaboration with Ben Harper, crafts imitations with the care of a music scholar on her solo debut. Taking on Pink Floyd in the title cut is serious business, but Maines does it fearlessly.