Dixie Chicks — “The Long Way Around”

 

Released: 8.29.06

Peak: Did not chart

It would have been poetic justice had the Dixie Chicks rebounded from their PR battle against the country music industry with their best music of their career. Instead they recorded their worst, and predictably enough, too, unless you still dream that great pop springs primarily from the wells of poetry and justice. The Long Way Around coughed up only two notable tracks, despite Rick Rubin vibing in the production booth, and despite outside songwriting help from numerous pros. (Neil Finn, Sheryl Crow, Gary Louris, Dan Wilson — hmm, maybe cordon “despite” off in quotes.)

Those two songs were severely self-referential. The more awkward “Not Ready to Make Nice” was the bigger hit, channeling everything limp and genteel about the NPR-left the Chicks now courted into a thoughtful exercise in self-pity, where the situation instead called for a curt “fuck off.” But the title track promised something else. A sequel of sorts to “Wide Open Spaces,” “The Long Way Around” follows the girl who left home to find herself still ISO as middle-age beckons. Natalie Maines herself was an ancient 32 years old at the time.

Though references to the Chicks’ recent struggles threaten to reduce the tune to mere autobiography, the emotional note that prevails is its naked sense of security postponed. Yet another reason to regret the band’s split with Nashville. If anyone needed a reminder that not every girl marries her high-school sweetheart, it was the young girls who once flocked to Dixie Chicks concerts. And if anyone needed a reminder that non-conformity is fueled less by courage than by stubbornness, it was the cowboy-manques they’d marry too soon.

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