PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Dixie Chicks: The Essential Dixie Chicks

This is an evocative selection that captures a profound recent history not only in the Dixie Chicks’ career, but in the recent history of female country music.

Dixie Chicks

The Essential Dixie Chicks

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2010-10-25

A decade ago if someone had told me that the Dixie Chicks would launch their Essential collection with a political and angst-ridden number like the retaliatory George W. Bush song, “Not Ready to Make Nice”, then I probably would have chuckled. Alas, they have done so. This is a bold step for a group who started out as the darlings of vanilla USA, and who were famously one of the first groups to bring Country to the masses, very much in the same manner that Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Leanne Rimes and Faith Hill were able to do.

Of course, this was before the band decided that they didn’t want to stay tethered to the quiet conservatism of the Country music genre and chose to speak out politically through their music and concert performances. The result, as is popularly known now, saw the once ubiquitous Dixie Chicks unfairly ambushed by the bigotry of right-wing political commentators and Country radio alike. This led the group through a bumpy period, which saw dwindling record sales and an unsettling death threat made on lead-singer Natalie Maines’ life.

It has been nearly seven years now since the original onslaught of aggression against the girls took place, but nevertheless, this essential collection of tracks feels weighted in response to those incidents. Instead of working chronologically, the first half of this ‘best of’ collection begins by collating musical numbers from the group’s later efforts. These are songs fuelled by a mix of social consciousness, such as “Travellin’ Soldier”; sombre angst as in “Bitter End”; and beautiful melancholy in “Easy Silence”. Then there is the Fleetwood Mac cover “Landslide” -- laced here with fiddles and Maines’ lingering drawl. The song is a fitting reflection of a band who have managed to soar to the greatest heights of musical success and who all of a sudden find themselves reflecting on their values, their history as a group, and evaluating the bond that binds them both as musical comrades, and as sisters.

Beyond this, fans will be pleased to hear that popular numbers like “Wide Open Spaces”, “Long Time Gone”, and “Cowboy Take Me Away” have also made the cut. The Essential Dixie Chicks is more than a mere collection of songs from an exceptional girl group. It is also a gathering of curated musical numbers, which consider the context, history and future of a band that not only managed to shake up the world of Country music, but that also straddled the world of Pop media and who had the guts to take on the beast that was the American media machine of the second Bush administration.

With 30 tracks, spanning thirteen years – this collection is a much better snapshot of the groups’ musical direction than the earlier release, Very Best of the Dixie Chicks. It is an evocative selection that captures a profound recent history in the Dixie Chicks’ repertoire. Let’s hope that the girls’ future holds plenty more of where that came from.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.