Dixie Chicks: Defining Moments

Last Monday, I attended “Fire Relief: The Concert for Central Texas” in Austin, which ultimately raised $725,000 for the victims of the Texas wildfires earlier this year. The line-up was Texas stellar: Christopher Cross, Terri Hendrix, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Asleep at the Wheel, the Texas Tornados, Randy Rogers Band, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks and George Strait. Superlatives are dangerous, but I’d rank it as one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

Strait closed the show, but to me, the Dixie Chicks stole the show with a fiery and pitch-perfect set. The band, currently on hiatus as a trio, reunited just for the event.

I love the Chicks for many reasons. Their harmonies. Their skill. Their tenacity. Their innovation. It’s hard to put into words my connection to this band and its music, but I can point to some small but meaningful ways they’ve marked my life over the years.

Back in the early 90s, the Dixie Chicks –albeit a different band at that time– played a small festival in Plano, Texas – my very first concert (period). My memories are fuzzy, but it’s fun hearing my parents talk about how much I enjoyed the experience. Five or so years later, when the band broke through in the late 90s, I was instantly sold on their sound. I have goofy memories of performing “Wide Open Spaces” with my middle school show choir at the height of its popularity.

In college, I wrote a divisive column on the Dixie Chicks’ 2007 Grammy sweep inThe Daily Texan that served as my first taste of reader backlash. Despite the snide comments that ensued, writing that column was one of the most rewarding and exhilarating things I did as a student. And though my perspective on the music industry has evolved over the past five years, I still stand firm behind the sentiment of my column.

Flash forward two years to 2009, and I found a little country music universe that’s since become like a second home. I quickly learned that the Country Universebloggers and I had something special in common, among other things – a fierce love for the Dixie Chicks. In some ways, it’s this love that’s shaped our philosophy as a country music blog, rooted in tolerance, respect and open-mindedness.

But at the end of the day, it’s always about the music. Two years ago, we named the Dixie Chicks’ Home and “Long Time Gone” the best album and single, respectively, of the previous decade. I’m particularly fond of Dan’s write-up for “Long Time Gone”:

All right, so Country Universe loves its Chicks. But make no mistake: “Long Time Gone” earned every bit of this spot on its own merits. The lead release from Home, it came zooming in at the peak of the Chicks’ mainstream popularity and made as bold a statement to the country music world as the group would ever make.

There was the sound, for starters: feisty, swinging bluegrass-folk, with nary a drum beat to be found and stellar harmonies around every corner. There was the song: a deceptively plucky Darrell Scott story of dried up past days and even drier dreams. And of course, there was that final verse, in which the washed-up narrator decries the lack of soul in much of the super-polished music currently dominating country radio. It all flew boldly in the face of everything that institution was (and still is) about, but got played anyway, such was the Chicks’ star and the single’s undeniable charms.

As we look forward to the next decade of country music, ”Long Time Gone” is the kind of song we’ll continue to keep our eyes out for, the kind people will still want to sing along to decades down the line, that makes all the less admirable efforts worth wading through and reminds us why we fell in love with country music in the first place.

Now excuse me while I go listen to Home.

Posted on October 23, 2011 and filed under Music, Writing.