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Dixie Chicks

Dixie Chicks


Country music group


Dixie Chicks ignited the Girl Power era of country music in 1998 with the release of their major label debut Wide Open Spaces. In less than a year after their major label debut, the hot country act was being presented platinum albums, featured in fashion spreads, and given critical acclaim with the added benefit of industry recognition through numerous music award nominations and honors, only to have the backlash from country's conservative element threaten their careers.

Sisters Emily Robison and Martie Seidel were multi-instrumentalists from a young age and began playing bluegrass music in a Dallas band. With Laura Lynch and Robin Macy, the sisters began playing for tips on a downtown Dallas street corner in 1989. What started as a lark became serious business when they earned about $375 in one hour. Passersby asked how they could hire the group, and they soon began performing at private parties and conventions. They became one of the region's favorite country acts. Early fans included high-profile businessman and former presidential candidate Ross Perot, and President George W. Bush.

The first incarnation of the Dixie Chicks was a caricature of an old-time western band. They donned

rhinestone studded cowgirl drag and played bluegrasstinged country, and country swing. When not opening for such established country acts as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and EmmyLou Harris, they recorded commercials for McDonald's and Justin Boots. The group released three independent recordings between 1990 and 1994, which were sold at their shows. Sales of the three recordings totaled around 60,000.

"We've always known how to market ourselves," said Seidel to Southwest Airlines Spirit 's Eric Celeste. "Even in the beginning we would milk the novelty of our act. That's how we made our living. We were the 'Texas hometown girls,' and that's what they wanted to see at these conventions where we would play. We could play all the clubs we loved, but that's not where we made our money. We made it playing for the folks at IBM."

Maines Changed Their Style

Natalie Maines, daughter of acclaimed steel guitarist/producer Lloyd Maines, joined the group in 1995. Maines had been awarded a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music and changed her major four times. About the same time, Lloyd Maines had been regularly playing with the Dixie Chicks on their self-produced recordings. When the sisters sought a singer to front the band after Lynch's departure, he just happened to have Natalie's Berklee audition tape with him.

Maines's arrival marked the group's transformation into a mainstream country group with rock-drenched panache. "Natalie is sensitive to the fact that there was a long history of the Dixie Chicks before she got there," Seidel told Celeste. "We played so many gigs for so many years where we were just there to look at, just musical wallpaper … [Maines] deserves a lot of the credit, too. It's not like she is a newcomer. She's carrying on a third generation of Maines musicians." The group sites diverse musical influences including musicians from rock, country, and bluegrass: Bela Fleck, Bob Wills, Sam Bush, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Dolly Parton, Indigo Girls, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt.

For the Record …

Members include Laura Lynch (left group, 1995), bass, vocals; Robin Macy (left group, 1992), guitar, vocals; Martie MacGuire (born on October 12, 1969, in York, PA; married; children: twins), vocals, fiddle, mandolin; Natalie Maines (joined group, 1995; born on October 14, 1974, in Lubbock, TX; married; children: two), lead vocals, guitar; Emily Robison (born on August 16, 1972, in Pittsfield, MA; married; children: Gus), vocals, banjo, dobro, guitar.

Group formed in Dallas, 1989; recorded three independent CDs for Crystal Clear including Little Ol' Cowgirl, 1992, Thank Heavens for Dale Evans, 1992, Shouldn't a Told You That, 1993; Maines joined group, 1995; toured extensively before signing with Monument/Sony; released major label debut, Wide Open Spaces, 1998; released Fly, 1999; released the multi-platinum selling Home, 2002; released their first live album, Top of the World Tour: Live, 2003.

Awards: Academy of Country Music Awards, Album of the Year, Top Vocal Group, Top New Vocal Duo/Group, 1998; Country Music Association (CMA) Awards, Horizon Award for Best Newcomer, Vocal Group of the Year, 1998; National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), Best Country Album, Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal, 1998; Academy of Country Music Awards, Album of the Year and Top Vocal Duo/Group, 1999; American Music Award, Favorite New Artist (Country), 1999; CMA Awards, Vocal Group of the Year, Single of the Year, Music Video of the Year, 1999; NARAS, Best Country Album, Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal, 1999; American Music Awards, Favorite New Artist (Country), 1999; Academy of Country Music, Album of the Year, Top Vocal Duo or Group, 1999; Academy of Country Music, Album of the Year, Top Vocal Duo or Group, 2000; CMA Awards, Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Music Video of the Year, 2001; American Music Awards, Favorite Band, Duo or Group (Country), 2001; Grammy Award, Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, Best Country Instrumental Performance, Best Country Album, 2003; CMA Award, International Artist Achievement Award, 2003.

Addresses: Record company—Monument/Sony Nashville, 34 Music Sq. E., Nashville, TN 37203. Website—Dixie Chicks Official Website: http://www.dixiechicks. launch.yahoo.com.

Dixie Chicks continued as an opening act for country music's elite, performed on the Grand Ole Opry, and on various country-oriented television shows. The group also reportedly showed up in the lobby of talk show host David Letterman's office building for an unsolicited audition, and was promptly kicked out of the building. The trio toured Europe and Japan in addition to performing throughout the Southern and Southwestern United States at venues including Dollywood and the Kerrville Folk Festival. They even played at a Presidential Inaugural Gala. All of this occurred before they had signed a contract with a major label.

Became Stars with Monument Records

The group started 1998 with three professional goals timed with the release of Wide Open Spaces in January: to have a number one record, to earn a gold album, and to get a Country Music Association award nomination. They met all three goals by August.

Wide Open Spaces, their Monument/Sony debut, eventually became a multiplatinum record, selling over 12 million copies. The hit "There's Your Trouble" was widely acclaimed by critics as a saucy antidote to country's syrupy sweet sound, "making Garth Brooks look like a wheezing old man." Dislodging country's "boring pop-wannabes" from the charts was seemingly easy. Wide Open Spaces was the fastest entry into the country top 10 in the SoundScan chart's history.

Critics liked them, too. Rolling Stone called the group "country's finest proponents of high-spirited thrills." In 1999, with the success of the single "Tonight the Heartache's On Me," Billboard asked the rhetorical question "Can these girls do anything wrong? It seems not. Every single has shown impressive chart activity, and their Country Music Association and Grammy Award wins just continue to slather icing on the trio's sweet-tasting cake of success." USA Today selected both "There's Your Trouble" and "Wide Open Spaces" as country singles of the year in 1998 and credited Dixie Chicks with "single-handedly returning the sound of banjo to country radio."

Widened Country's Fan Base

Much of the trio's success can be attributed to their ability to infuse the rootsy sound of traditional country music—a shockingly alternative idea in the modern commercial climate—with the youth-oriented aesthetics of the 1990s Girl Power movement. Subsequently, at a time when country's radio demographics were skewing heavily towards young women, the Dixie Chicks became the voice of a new generation of music buyers. That said, their sudden mainstream popularity—while good for country music—was largely misunderstood. The trio endured cutesy quips likening them to "a country Wilson Phillips," and Rolling Stone's pronouncement as "the redneck answer to the Spice Girls."

Shirley Jinkins of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram took the trio to task, too, calling them "Shania-ized," referring to country-pop star Shania Twain. She wrote that girls were "dressing lean and trendy, showing a little skin and sporting uniformly platinum locks. It's a cohesive, if mainstream, look. The downside is a loss of distinctiveness that the former All-Cowgirl Band had in abundance." Responded Maines, "We might as well look twenty-something as long as we can."

Their cute looks, though helpful in gaining media attention, had a decided downside. "When you're three blond women in this industry, you're at a disadvantage as far as perceptions go," Seidel told Seventeen. In that same article, Robison said some critics and fans might be curious as to who's playing on the CD. "A lot of people in Nashville sing over tracks laid down by studio musicians. I may not be the best banjo player in Nashville, but I can re-create our sound in a live show." She told Country America that fans attending their live shows clearly see that Dixie Chicks are the real deal.

Controversial and Award Winning

In 1999, Dixie Chicks released Fly. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number one, making chart history. It was the first chart-topping album by a country group in the history of the Billboard album chart. Fly featured "Cowboy Take Me Away," a song Seidel cowrote; she and Maines sang it at Robison's wedding. Besides that love song, the Chicks ruffled a few feathers with "Goodbye Earl," a Dennis Linde song—penned in the 1970s—that tells how two friends, one with an abusive husband, put poison in his black-eyed peas and dump his body in a lake. They included a liner note that read, "The Dixie Chicks do not advocate premeditated murder, but love getting even." The group had recorded the song as a funny romp, but some radio listeners, programmers, and critics blanched at the song's violent notions. However, many other people were in their corner. Renee Revett of KXKC Lafayette, Louisiana, as quoted in Billboard, said, "The message in 'Earl,' while certainly more bawdy and satirical, is nothing new to country music." Billboard 's Phyllis Stark pointed out, "Martina McBride's 'Independence Day' went to number 12 on the singles chart in 1994 with a virtually identical theme, albeit without the humor. Two of Garth Brooks's early hits, 'The Thunder Rolls,' and 'Papa Loved Mama,' deal with murderous spouses…." The video for the song featured appearances by actors Dennis Franz, Lauren Holly, and Jane Krakowski. Richard Corliss in Time noted that the album "has strong song selection, including five co-written by the Chicks, and a wide range of musical moods; the trio is at home in Appalachian mountain music or trailer-park rock 'n' roll."

The group won recognition from many music organizations for their work on Fly. The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences gave the Dixie Chicks Grammy awards for Best Country Album and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Ready to Run," from the soundtrack for the Julia Roberts movie Runaway Bride They were given Country Music Association awards for Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, and Music Video of the Year for "Goodbye Earl." The Academy of Country Music also honored them with Album of the Year and Top Vocal Duo or Group awards. The Dixie Chicks were named Favorite Band, Duo or Group (Country Music) at the 2001 American Music Awards.

Finished in Country?

Consolidating their alternative and crossover appeal, the Dixie Chicks joined the all-female Lilith Fair tour in the summer of 1999. They were the first country act ever to play on Lilith's main stage. In 2000, they embarked on a 70-city tour, the trio's first as a headliner. Maines had a son, Jackson Slade, in early 2001, and Robison struggled to become pregnant at that time. Eventually, with the help of a fertility specialist, Robison and her husband became the proud parents of son Charles Augustus ("Gus") in late 2002. Seidel married for a second time, to Irish-born Gareth MacGuire, taking his last name after the marriage.

After renegotiating their recording contracts, the Dixie Chicks returned to recording in 2002, releasing the album Home on their own Sony vanity label, Open Wide. The album was a huge success, earning the group three more Grammy Awards, including one for Best Country Album. Soon after their Grammy wins, however, the group hit a rough spot when at a time when the United States and much of the world were at odds over how to deal with the Iraqi crisis, Maines criticized President of the United States George W. Bush, saying that she was ashamed that he was from her home state of Texas. Several conservative radio stations run by Cumulus Media pulled the trio's discs off their playlists, with many Clear Channel outlets following suit. By way of simultaneously fanning the flames of the controversy and commenting on it, many other stations played the group's singles back to back with Toby Keith's, another top country seller whose pro-war sentiments drew critical comments from Maines. In due course, Maines apologized, but stood by her right to speak her mind, releasing a press statement that read in part, "My comments were made in frustration and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view." Many fans were still outraged by her remarks, however, and radio stations continued to boycott the Dixie Chicks. Yet the group's appeal reached far beyond the country playlists and their 2003 live disc Top of the World became a major seller in conjunction with an extremely profitable tour.

As of early 2004, the aftershocks of the incident were still being felt. Country's hardcore conservative base still hadn't forgiven them and few fellow country singers have come to their defense. "A few weeks ago, Merle Haggard said a couple of nice words about us, but that was it," Maguire told Germany's Spiegel magazine in late 2003. "The support we got came from others like [rock icon] Bruce Springsteen." Commenting on the lack of attention from radio and country award shows, the group's co-founder added, "Instead, we won three Grammy awards against much stronger competition.

So now we consider ourselves part of the big rock 'n' roll family."

Selected discography

Singles

"There's Your Trouble," 1998

"Wide Open Spaces," 1998.

"I Can Love You Better," 1998.

"Ready to Run," 1999.

"Tonight the Heartache's on Me," 1999.

"You Were Mine," 1999.

"Cowboy Take Me Away," 2000.

"Goodbye Earl," 2000.

"If I Fall You're Going Down With Me," 2001.

"Without You," 2001.

"Some Days You Gotta Dance," 2002.

"Long Time Gone," 2002.

"Travelin'Soldier," 2003.

"Landslide," 2003.

"Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)," 2003.

Albums

Little Ol' Cowgirl, Crystal Clear, 1992.

Thank Heavens for Dale Evans, Crystal Clear, 1992.

Shouldn't a Told You That, Crystal Clear, 1993.

Wide Open Spaces, Sony, 1998.

(Contributor) Runaway Bride (soundtrack), Sony/Columbia, 1999.

Fly, Sony/Monument, 1999.

Home, Open Wide/Sony, 2002.

Top of the World: Live, Open Wide/Sony, 2003.

Sources

Periodicals

Albany Democrat-Herald (Albany, OR), July 10, 1998.

Atlanta Constitution, January 15, 1998.

Billboard, January 17, 1998; May 2, 1998; April 10, 1999; April 1, 2000.

Country America, September 1998.

Country Weekly, January 20, 1998.

Entertainment Weekly, December 25, 1998.

Harper's Bazaar, March 1999.

Music Row, July 8, 1998.

People, February 9, 1998; September 28, 1998; October 12, 1998; December 28, 1998; February 3, 2003.

Rolling Stone, December 10, 1998; December 24, 1998.

Seventeen, April 1999.

Tennessean (Nashville, TN), January 26, 1998; February 7, 1998; August 5, 1998.

Time, September 20, 1999.

TV Guide, February 20, 1999.

USA Today, January 27, 1998; September 23, 1998; September 24, 1998; December 29, 1998.

USA Weekend, November 27, 1998.

Washington Times, January 25, 1998.

Online

"Dixie Chicks," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com (February 18, 2004).

Additional information provided by Monument/Sony Records publicity materials, 1999.

—Linda Dailey Paulson and

Ken Burke

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Dixie Chicks

Dixie Chicks

Country group

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Dixie Chicks hatched a new age of country music in 1998 with the release of their major label debut Wide Open Spaces. In less than a year, the hot country act was being presented gold albums, featured in fashion spreads, and given critical acclaim with the added benefit of industry recognition through numerous music award nominations and honors.

Sisters Emily Erwin and Martie Seidel were multi-instrumentalists from a young age. Encouraged by their parents, the girls began playing bluegrass music in a Dallas band. With Laura Lynch and Robin Macy, the sisters decided to play for tips on a downtown Dallas street corner in 1989. What started as a lark became serious business when they earned about $375 in one hour. Passersby asked how they could hire the group, which was soon performing at private parties and conventions. They became one of the regions favorite country groups. Early fans included high-profile businessman and former presidential candidate Ross Perot, and Texas politician George W. Bush.

For the Record

Members include Emily Erwin , (born August 16, 1972, Pittsfield, MA; daughter of Barbara and Paul; parents divorced in 1989; married Charlie Robison May of 1999), vocals, banjo, dobro, and guitar; Laura Lynch (left group 1995), bass and vocals; Robin Macy (left group 1992), guitar and vocals; Natalie Maines (born October 14, 1974, Lubbock, TX; married to Michael Tarabay; Education: attended Berklee School of Music; joined, 1995), lead vocals and guitar; Martie Seidel (born October 12, 1969, York, PA; daughter of Barbara and Paul; married to Ted Siedel; Education: attended Southern Methodist University); vocals, fiddle and mandolin.

Group formed in Dallas by sisters Emily Erwin and Martie Seidel with Robin Macy and Laura Lynch; began playing street corners, conventions and private parties; recorded three independent CDs for Crystal Clearfrom 1990-94 including, Littleol Cowgirl, 1992, Thank Heavens for Dale Evans, 1992, Shouldnt a Told You That, 1993; Maines joined group, 1995; toured extensively before signing with Monument/Sony; released major label debut, Wide Open Spaces, 1998; Wide Open Spaces reached number one and achieved gold certification, 1998; Wide Open Spaces achieves quadruple platinum certification, 1999.

Awards: 32nd Annual Country Music Association AwardsHorizon Award for best newcomer and Vocal Group of the Year; 34th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards for Duet or Group, New Group or Duet, and Album.

Addresses: Record company Monument/Sony Nashville, 34 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203; Fan clubDixie Chicks Fan Club, P.O. Box 670444, Dallas, Texas 75637-0444; E-mail DixieChks@aol.com.

But the group didnt yet have a name. There exist several published variations recounting the origins of Dixie Chicks. The official record company position is that the group heard Little Feats Dixie Chicken on the radio, only Martie didnt want to be a chicken so the name was shortened to Dixie Chicks.

The first incarnation of the Dixie Chicks tended toward rhinestone studded cowgirl drag, bluegrass-tinged country, and country swing. The group gained additional notice by opening for national country acts such as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and Emmylou Harris; they also recorded commercials for McDonalds and Justin Boots. The group released three independent recordings between 1990 and 1994, which were sold at their shows. Sales of the three recordings totaled around 60,000.

Weve always known how to market ourselves, said Seidel to Southwest Airlines Spirits Eric Celeste. Even in the beginning we would milk the novelty of our act. Thats how we made our living. We were the Texas hometown girls, and thats what they wanted to see at these conventions where we would play. We could play all the clubs we loved, but thats not where we made our money. We made it playing for the folks at IBM.

Natalie Maines, daughter of acclaimed steel guitarist Lloyd Maines, joined the group in 1995. Maines had been awarded a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music and changed her major four times. About the same time, Lloyd Maines had been regularly playing with the Dixie Chicks on their self-produced recordings. When the sisters sought a singer to front the band after Lynchs departure, he just happened to have Natalies Berklee audition tape with him.

Maines arrival marked the groups transformation into a mainstream country group with panache. Natalie is sensitive to the fact that there was a long history of the Dixie Chicks before she got there, Seidel told Celeste. We played so many gigs for so many years where we were just there to look at, just musical wallpaper [Maines] deserves a lot of the credit, too. Its not like she is a newcomer. Shes carrying on a third generation of Maines musicians. The group sites diverse musical influences including musicians from rock, country, and bluegrass: Bela Fleck, Bob Wills, Sam Bush, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Dolly Parton, Indigo Girls, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.

Dixie Chicks continued as an opening act for country musics elite, performed on the Grand Ole Opry, and on various country-oriented television shows. The group also reportedly showed up in the lobby of talk show host David Lettermans office building for an unsolicited audition, and was promptly kicked out of the building. The trio toured Europe and Japan in addition to performing throughout the Southern and Southwestern United States at venues including Dollywood and the Kerrville Folk Festival. They even played at a Presidential Inaugural Gala. All this before they had signed a contract with a major label.

The group started 1998 with three professional goals timed with the release of Wide Open Spaces in January: to have a number one record, to earn a gold album, and to get a Country Music Association award nomination. They met all three goals by August.

Wide Open Spaces, their Monument/Sony debut, was a quadruple platinum selling record. The hit Theres Your Trouble was widely acclaimed by critics as a saucy antidote to countrys syrupy sweet sound, making Garth Brooks look like a wheezing old man. Dislodging countrys boring pop-wannabes from the charts was seemingly easy. Wide Open Spaces was the fastest entry into the country top 10 in the SoundScan charts history.

Critics liked them, too. Rolling Stone called the group countrys finest proponents of high-spirited thrills. In 1999, with the success of the single Tonight the Heartaches On Me, Billboard asked the rhetorical question Can these girls do anything wrong? It seems not. Every single has shown impressive chart activity, and their Country Music Association and Grammy Award wins just continue to slather icing on the trios sweet-tasting cake of success. USA Today selected both Theres YourTrouble and Wide Open Spaces as country singles of the year in 1998 and credited Dixie Chicks with single-handedly returning the sound of banjo to country radio.

It was initially felt that Maines voice needed to be country-fied because she was said to sound too much like alternative rock diva Alanis Morrisette. The gals held their ground both in their musical direction and style choices. Dixie Chicks have been compared to country acts The Forester Sisters and Lee Ann Womack as well as to pop artist Lisa Loeb. The trio endured cutesy quips likening them to a country Wilson Phillips, and Rolling Stones pronouncement as the redneck answer to the Spice Girls.

Shirley Jinkins of the Fort Worth Star-Telegramtook the trio to task, too, calling them Shania-ized, referring to country-pop star ShaniaTwain. She wrote that girls were dressing lean and trendy, showing a little skin and sporting uniformly platinum locks. Its a cohesive, if mainstream, look. The downside is a loss of distinctiveness thattheformer All-Cowgirl Band had in abundance. Responded Maines, We might as well look twenty-something as long as we can.

Their cute looks, though helpful in gaining media attention, had a decided downside. When youre three blond women in this industry, youre at a disadvantage as far as perceptions go, Seidel told Seventeen. In that same article, Erwin said some critics and fans might be curious as to whos playing on the CD. A lot of people in Nashville sing over tracks laid down by studio musicians. I may not be the best banjo player in Nashville, but I can re-create our sound in a live show. She told Country America that fans attending their live shows clearly see that Dixie Chicks are the real deal.

Selected discography

Little Ol Cowgirl, Crystal Clear, 1992.

Thank Heavens for Dale Evans, Crystal Clear, 1992.

Shouldnt a Told You That, Crystal Clear, 1993.

Wide Open Spaces, Sony, 1998.

Sources

Albany (Oregon) Democrat-Herald, July 10, 1998.

Atlanta Constitution, January 15, 1998.

Billboard, January 17, 1998; May 2, 1998; April 10, 1999.

Country America, September 1998.

Country Weekly, January 20, 1998.

Entertainment Weekly, December 25, 1998.

Harpers Bazaar, March 1999.

Music Row, July 8, 1998.

People, February 9, 1998; September 28, 1998; October 12, 1998; December 28, 1998.

Pollstar, March 30, 1998.

Rolling Stone, December 10, 1998; December 24, 1998.

Seventeen, April 1999.

Sophisticates Hairstyleguide, October 1998.

Southwest Airlines Spirit, October 1998.

Tennessean (Nashville, TN), January 26, 1998; February 7, 1998; August 5, 1998.

TV Guide, February 20, 1999.

USA Today, January 27, 1998; September 23, 1998; September 24, 1998; December 29, 1998.

USA Weekend, November 27, 1998.

Washington Times, January 25, 1998.

Additional information provided by Monument/Sony Records publicity materials, 1999.

Linda Dailey Paulson

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"Dixie Chicks." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Dixie Chicks." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/dixie-chicks

Dixie Chicks

DIXIE CHICKS

Formed: 1989, Dallas, Texas

Members: Natalie Maines (born Lubbock, Texas, 14 October 1974); Emily Erwin Robison (born Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 16 August 1972); Martie Erwin Seidel (born York, Pennsylvania, 12 October 1969). Former members: Laura Lynch (born Dell City, Texas, 18 November 1958); Robin Lynn Macy (born Sunnyvale, California, 27 November 1958).

Genre: Country

Best-selling album since 1990: Home (2002)

Hit songs since 1990: "Wide Open Spaces," "Goodbye Earl," "Travelin' Soldier"


The Dixie Chicks helped redefine country music in the late 1990s and early 2000s, crafting a hip new image for female performers while earning both critical acclaim and popular acceptance. Founded in the late 1980s as a bluegrass band, the group eventually gained mainstream recognition by modifying its sound to better fit the slick pop guidelines of 1990s country radio. At the same time, the group refused to completely abandon its roots, using traditional instruments such as banjo and fiddle to enrich both pop ballads and up-tempo dance songs. As their popularity grew the Dixie Chicks became more comfortable with this dichotomy, returning to a roots-based sound while releasing songs and public statements that challenged country's politically conservative ethos. With close-cropped blonde hair and a chic designer wardrobe, the group also promoted a sex appeal rare in country music. By 2003, after enduring an angry public backlash over its antiwar stance, the band had proven its talent and resilience.


Bluegrass Beginnings

Formed in Dallas, Texas, the group originally consisted of sisters Emily and Martie Erwin, who played the banjo

and fiddle, respectively, as well as bass player Laura Lynch and guitarist Robin Lynn Macy. In 1989 the group began perfecting its unique brand of bluegrass (a traditional country music style characterized by acoustic guitar playing and banjo picking) on Dallas street corners, reportedly earning $100 during its first hour. Hearing rock group Little Feat's song, "Dixie Chicken," on the radio, the young women named themselves the "Dixie Chicks" and began dressing in cowgirl attire. While the group's first album, Thank Heavens for Dale Evans (1990), was recorded in a bluegrass style, successive albums, such as Little Ol' Cowgirl (1992), incorporate more of a modern country sound. Unhappy with this change in direction, Macy left the group in 1992. Three years later, thirty-seven-year-old Lynch also left, amid rumors that her age did not fit in with the youthful image the Erwin sistersthen in their twentieswere trying to promote for the group. Lynch's replacement was Natalie Maines, the daughter of noted country guitarist Lloyd Maines. Twenty-one years old in 1995, the powerful-voiced Maineswho spent her childhood singing songs from classic Broadway musicals such as West Side Story perfectly embodied the youthful sensuality the Erwin sisters wanted for the group.

Country and Pop Stardom

The revised lineup now in place, the Dixie Chicks achieved crossover stardom with Wide Open Spaces (1998), the band's debut album for a major label. Bearing a sleek, streamlined sound, the album is marked by intelligent song selection and Maines's supple vocals. Exuberant hits such as "I Can Love You Better" and "There's Your Trouble" contribute to the band's confident, likable image, while the expressive title trackdetailing the experiences of a girl who leaves home to strike out on her ownspeaks to a modern sense of female independence. Although smooth and radio-friendly, the album leaves room for the group's bluegrass roots; "There's Your Trouble," for example, is enlivened by rapid banjo picking, while "Tonight the Heartache's on Me" is a rousing swing number sporting traditional instrumentation of fiddles, drums, and bass guitar.

Winning a Grammy Award in 1998 for Best Country Album, Wide Open Spaces paved the way for the Dixie Chicks' second major-label release, Fly (1999). Many critics considered the album stronger than its predecessor, noting the new assurance and potency of Maines's vocals and pointing to the boldness of the material. "Goodbye Earl," a song that gave the group its first taste of controversy when it was banned by several male disc jockeys, tells the story of a much-abused wife who, with the help of her best friend, kills her husband. Ironically set against a cheerful backing chorus, the song rails against spousal abuse with an off-kilter sense of humor: "It didn't take 'em long to decide / That Earl had to die." The power and bravado of "Goodbye Earl" are emphasized by Maines's aggressively full-throttle vocal approach. "Sin Wagon," an unrepentant ode to hedonism, likewise breaks new ground for country lyrics, with Maines attesting, "Feel like Delilah lookin' for Samson / Do a little mattress dancing." Then, just in case the listener misses the point, Maines adds humorously, "That's right, I said mattress dancing."


Success and Controversy

By 2000 the Dixie Chicks were engaged in a battle with their record company, Sony, over royalties. Although the legal wrangling kept the group out of the studio for nearly two years, its popularity remained strong. Having settled the case, the group returned in 2002 with Home, judged by critics to be its strongest album to date. Inspired perhaps by the surprise commercial success of the film soundtrack, O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)an album composed entirely of traditional country musicthe Dixie Chicks strip down their sound on Home, dispensing with drums to achieve a restrained, gentle feel that recalls the roots-based approach of their early work. The songs, including "Travelin' Soldier"the moving account of a woman in love with a soldier who does not return from the Vietnam Warremain tuneful and accessible, qualities that helped the album reach the number one positions on both the pop and country charts.

Riding the crest of their popularity, the Dixie Chicks risked losing it all in March 2003, when Maines made statements at a concert in England protesting President George Bush and the impending Iraq war: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." When news of the comment reached American shores, country radio largely banned the group's music, with several stations setting up trash receptacles in which listeners could dispense of Home. Although the Dixie Chicks apologized, stressing that they had meant no disrespect to American troops, the public outcry continued, with rock star Bruce Springsteen and other celebrities eventually coming to the group's defense. By May the fracas, which suggested how conservative the country audience remains at its core, had subsided to an extent, allowing the group to kick off an American tour without major incident. That month Home returned to the top of the country album charts.

Combining traditional instrumentation with a fashionable image and sharp, progressive songs, the Dixie Chicks brought a new sensibility to country music in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Aided by the rich lead vocals of Maines, the group displayed the talent and vision to hold onto its success in the midst of controversy.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Thank Heavens for Dale Evans (Crystal Clear, 1990); Little Ol' Cowgirl (Crystal Clear, 1992); Wide Open Spaces (Sony/Monument, 1998); Fly (Monument, 1999); Home (Open Wide/Sony, 2002).

WEBSITE:

www.dixiechicks.com.

david freeland

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"Dixie Chicks." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Dixie Chicks." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/dixie-chicks