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Dixie Chicks - Taking The Long Way 
Review By Jim Moulton, CSO Staff Journalist

Well, they are back... and in a real big way. After taking a couple of years off to raise kids and maintain a low profile. They brought in Dan Wilson, Keb Mo, Sheryl Crow and Gary Louis to help them create all original material, plus a few others. 

They also hired Rick Rubin, who with the help of Mastering engineer Richard Dodd, who also mixed the disc, have made one of the best sounding CD's I've ever heard.

There are several layers of music, but you can hear every instrument. The harmonies are grand with Bonnie Raitt helping out on backup vocals. There are several layers of mostly acoustic guitar tracks that sound so sweet. Lloyd Maines is back on pedal steel, but he is buried a bit in the mix, not out front like on a country CD. He plays some riffs that I have never heard on pedal steel on this CD. John Maher plays lead guitar, what there is of it, (two tracks). Natalie just sings and plays an omnichord on some tracks. Martie sings backup, plays violin, viola and mandolin. Emily sings backup, plays banjo, acoustic and electric guitars, accordion and sitar.

There are a ton of other guitarists, pianists, bass players, string players and drummers. The vocals are recorded dry (basically, no reverb) and sound really good. They took two years to write the songs. I'm sure they were in the studio a long time.

The disc weighs in at fourteen tracks and sixty six minutes. I know it will sell, but who will buy it, I see it debuting at number 1 on the Billboard top 200 pop chart. The first failed single "Not Ready To Make Nice" basically disses country radio and gets back into the same old story. But, otherwise, there is not a song on here that would not make country radio better.

"The Long Way Around" - is the title track which reminds me a bit of "Wide Open Spaces", starting out very acoustic, then the band gradually comes in. Great melody and chorus, beautiful hooks, and there is some pedal steel and banjo deep in the mix.. - "It's been two long years now since the Top Of The World came crashing down" - Some very rich textured sound, the Chicks never sounded better.

"Bitter End" is a great song, acoustic guitars, beautiful harmonies, Natalie sings like never before. No lead instruments at all, like most of the CD, very few and short instrumental breaks and the Chicks stay away from the instrument leads. Just a huge orchestral effect of layers of music. A song about farewell to old friends (musicians who deserted them) - "we'll still be here when you come round again."

"Favorite Year" has the Chick's vocals sounding better than ever, so tight. This could be the best song on the disc, but there are so many good songs. This sounds like you are listening to a DVD CD, you hear so much, so smooth, great tone.

So many great songs, can not do them all, here are some of my other favorites; "Silent House", "Voice Inside My Head" (dynamite), "I Like It" and "So Hard". Many other great songs.

This CD grows on you, it did me with every listen, I liked it more each time or heard something I didn't hear before. There are lots of messages the Chicks have to share, very personal. The Dixie Chicks have outgrown country radio with this masterpiece. Get ready to enjoy!


To purchase the CD online, click on the album cover.
1. The Long Way Around 
2. Easy Silence 
3. Not Ready To Make Nice 
4. Everybody Knows 
5. Bitter End 
6. Lullaby 
7. Lubbock Or Leave It 
8. Silent House 
9. Favorite Year 
10. Voice Inside My Head 
11. I Like It 
12. Baby Hold On 
13. So Hard 
14. I Hope 

Related Links:
Official Website  
MySpace Site 

TRACK BY TRACK

1. "The Long Way Around"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Dan Wilson 

Emily: That's a journey song, about the different stages in our lives. A recap of where we've been, where we're going - and it was nice to remind ourselves of all that.

Natalie: We've always written songs that are about other people. It's so much harder to put yourself out there and be honest with your emotions and your beliefs, but the songs are so much better and mean so much more when you can let yourself be vulnerable.

2. "Easy Silence"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Dan Wilson 

Martie: We didn't set out to write a lot of love songs, but we're all probably in the best place we've ever been with our mates.

Natalie: There's also a bit of political commentary in there, from my point of view. I had to get a lot of other things off my chest before I could be nice and sentimental. Even when we tried to write a sweet song, there was always a little dig at somebody.

Martie: One of the challenges for me was that the songs we were writing weren't necessarily calling for the traditional kind of fiddling that I am used to doing on our records. The orchestrated approach really pushed me to dig back into my training and remember how to play and write with those sensibilities. Rick really encouraged me to think differently in this respect and not feel limited.

3. "Not Ready To Make Nice"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Dan Wilson 

Emily: The stakes were definitely higher on that song. We knew it was special because it was so autobiographical, and we had to get it right.
We've all gone through so many emotions about the incident. We talked for days with Dan before putting pen to paper, and he really helped get inside our heads and put these feelings out. And once we had this song done, it freed us up to do the rest of the album without that burden.

Martie: We had reached a point where we were laughing a lot about it, and people didn't really know how far it had gone. I realized I had suppressed a lot about the death threat. It all came flooding back in the process of writing this song, I think we all realized just how painful it had been for us.

Natalie: We tried to write about the incident a few times, but you get nervous that you're being too preachy or too victimized or too nonchalant. Dan came in with an idea that was some kind of concession, more 'can't we all just get along?' and I said, nope, I can't say that, can't do it. And we talked about it, and he said, what about "I'm not ready to make nice?" From the outside, normal people really weren't aware of how bizarre and absurd it got. Dan was really good at cluing in to that, saying something that didn't back down, but still had a vulnerability to it. This album was therapy. To write these songs allowed me to find peace with everything and move on. 

4. "Everybody Knows"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Gary Louris 

Natalie: I find the psychology of celebrity very interesting; the things people are willing to sacrifice to be famous. I think it comes from a sad place. Some are grounded and can keep it in perspective, and some let it take over. 

Emily: It's a soap opera, something for people to watch that's bigger than life. And the people who are in the middle of it love that. They want to be perceived as being larger than life. It's like watching "Richie Rich" or "Silver Spoons."

Martie: I'm very proud that when Brad and Jennifer broke up, I didn't know for a month!

Natalie: Sometimes you do feel more claustrophobic. I've definitely become more reclusive and anti-social and suspicious of people, which sucks, but it does come with it.

5. "Bitter End"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Gary Louris 

Emily: That started when Martie came in with a little Celtic fiddle riff, just like two notes.

Martie: I'd been listening to the Pogues a lot, and I just started from a drone and a waltz time feel. It was hard at first writing with people you don't know, how much you're willing to put out there and risk getting shot down. We spent long hours just talking with these people, talking about life, collaborating on what we wanted to say

Natalie: It's a lot of hours to spend with somebody if you don't have much in common. These writers are so good, they are constantly questioning if a song is the best it can be.

Emily: Gary Louris is just so melodic - and he's really good at singing nonsense words to the melodies, and then ideas just come out of that.

6. "Lullaby"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Dan Wilson 


Emily: That was last song that was written for the album. We felt like we said everything we wanted to say, it was time to write a song about our kids. 

Natalie: It's a song that you're really going to get and is going to make you cry if you have kids. If you're a teenager, I guess you can skip over it!
One thing that's cool about being a musician is that things live forever, so our kids will always have this as a gift to them.

7. "Lubbock or Leave It"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Mike Campbell 


Emily: We'd seen a documentary called "The Education of Shelby Knox," which was about a girl - she was 16 at the time, very religious - trying to get Lubbock to teach sex education in the schools. And Lubbock has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs in the US, so it really showed what happens when you keep this information away from people. Lubbock is also one of the last hold-out radio stations that still won't play us, and of course Natalie is from Lubbock, so she has personal experience with the box that a small town can keep you in.

Natalie: It's not just about Lubbock, but about any small, hypocritical town. Mike was asking me for all the details - the stores, streets and I came up with this long list of names. We talked about the irony of having a big painting of Buddy Holly at the airport -that his face is the last thing you see before getting on a plane!
I do feel bad for my family whoís still there and has to defend me - after everything they already went through, to have to do it again.

8. "Silent House"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Neil Finn 

Natalie: This song is about my grandmother who has Alzheimer's. It's about walking through her house, that she no longer lives in. Packing up a house, having all those familiar feelings and passing those wonderful memories on to others. 

Emily: Martie and I also had a grandfather who had dementia, and you realize that it's up to you to remember them the way they were, because you're going to be a witness to their life. That's one of my favorites on the album. It's kind of a dark horse - it's long, it takes a lot of patience, but I really grew to like it.

Natalie: Even though this song is about our experiences, almost everyone has been touched by something like this. The other writers were all very generous and understood what we needed to say.

9. "Favorite Year"
Words & Music by Sheryl Crow, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines

Martie: I had an idea for a song where the person knows in their heart that a relationship wasn't right, but still wants the other person to look back on it as the best time in their life. I think I was wished that thatís how my ex husband looked back on our 5 years together, but I know that's not the case. But hey, you can make it true in a song, right?

Natalie: I had just watched "The Big Chill," so that's what I was visualizing. People who were so in love when they were really young, and you really think you're going to spend the rest of your lives together, but then life just takes turns.

Emily: Sheryl Crow worked out the chord progression. We worked on this song together when we were recording "Home."

Natalie: We felt an instant connection to Sheryl, she's very real and funny, easy to talk to and open about herself.

10. "Voice Inside My Head"
Words & Music by Linda Perry, Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Dan Wilson 

Martie: This one was hard for Natalie. It took a long time for her to feel like she could sing this song and really own it. It's a very heavy subject matter and it took us a while to get it right. 

Natalie: Itís one that didnít come together until the very end. Rick was instrumental in making the sound really work for this song. 

11. "I Like It"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Gary Louris 

Natalie: The day we wrote ďI like ItĒ with Gary we were looking just to write a rock song with a great hook. What I like most about this song is all the layers of harmonies. It was one of those songs that we got to try things vocally, that we had never done before.

12. "Baby Hold On"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Pete Yorn, Gary Louris 

Emily: That's a song touching on where we are in our lives and our relationships, trying to get your partner to be Number One in your life and putting the focus back on your marriage, as opposed to just being mom and dad. Kind of a "where are we now" look at married life.

Martie: I thought we'd write more about our families than we did. We're really good friends, but we don't always talk a lot about our personal lives - maybe out of not wanting to burden the others, or even just to keep a bit of privacy.

13. "So Hard" 
Words & Music by Linda Perry, Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Dan Wilson 

Martie: That song touches on the issue of infertility, which Emily and I both had to deal with. I think we feel a responsibility to break down some of these barriers - it's much more of a common problem than people realize. Someone the other day asked me if twins ran in my family. When I told them I did in vitro they said, "Oh, so you took the easy way." I couldn't believe they said that.

Emily: We both got pregnant through in vitro fertilization, and people usually get all freaked out when we tell them that. I don't find it a stigma at all - people need to start talking about it, because it feels almost epidemic. And it's so wonderful that we have this technology.

14. "I Hope"
Words & Music by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, KebíMoí

Emily: KebíMoí was one of the last writers we wrote with, and it was so nice and so comfortable working with him. With what he's been through and where he grew up, it's important to him to write positive, uplifting songs.

Natalie: On the other hand, he wasn't afraid to get political, and this ultimately turned out to be a pretty serious song. Hopeful and positive, but serious.

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