Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dixie Chicks, Minus One Chick

So, the word on the street today is that the Dixie Chicks--the Grammy-sweeping trio lauded for their originality in both the country and bluegrass worlds--will be releasing new music this year.

There's just one catch: One of the Chicks won't be participating. And, you can probably guess which one.

Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison are working on a project together sans lead singer Natalie Maines, according to CMT. The album reportedly will released on Columbia Records, which is the Chicks' label.

CMT also reports that Lloyd Maines, Natalie's father, is saying that the trio as a whole "is definitely still an entity."

This news, of course, is pretty fascinating, given the most recent history of the Dixie Chicks. We all know the tale: Natalie Maines makes disparaging remark about then-President G.W. Bush; the country world reacts negatively (to say the least). The group becomes an unwitting symbol/talkpoint in politically divided times.

Maines gives a forced apology (which she later retracted) but then the Chicks write an album about not really being sorry. Which wins Grammy after Grammy, completely knocking out that years' formidable competition ranging from Justin Timberlake to James Blunt to Rascal Flatts. Maines singsongs "ha-ha!" while accepting awards.

Moreover, the band--whether willingly or by circumstance--ended up distancing itself from the country music world, going so far as to publicly note they'd rather not be lumped in with the Reba McEntire and Toby Keith fans. (Note: Okay, we all know Toby can be a bit of a firebrand--but what did poor Reba do?!)

We all know how it went.

And so it went. Since then, the Chicks have laid fairly low, concentrating on family life (all three have young children). News of activity from the group, if only from two members, is quite big indeed.

In fact, quite bigger for the omission of Maines. Discussion has gone back and forth amongst fans and those in the thick of Nashville gossip about what exactly was Maguire and Robison's opinion of the Bush controversy (both sisters publicly stood by Maines's remarks and the resultant fallout).

Could the sisters be having a family collab just for the pure enjoyment of it? Or, is there a deeper meaning to the omission of their longtime pal and singer?

I, for one, am wondering if it's a bit of both. If, maybe, the two are preferring a lower-key re-emergence into the spotlight.

Back when Taking The Long Way came out, a Nashville buddy of mine mentioned, "It's such a great album, and a lot of us here just wish everyone would forget the bulls--t and enjoy the music." Which I think is a valid sentiment for many Chicks fans. It was a good album, with many personal facets and emotions ranging beyond the controversial obvious. (In fact, I felt "Not Ready To Make Nice" was one of the weaker songs in the tracklisting, overall.)

There will be no escaping the endless questioning about you-know-what-and-whatnot, but perhaps leaving out Maines--who has, undoubtedly, painted herself into the catalyst corner of this entire saga--is the easiest way to get back to the basics.

Then again--it could very well be Maines herself who wishes to remain out of the spotlight for a little bit longer. As the center of the storm, she's weathered the most criticism.

But, of course--I want to know what you think. Are you looking forward to the Chicks minus Maines? Or holding out for the trio's undiluted return? Let's hear your thoughts on the matter.

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