A lot has changed since the Dixie Chicks last studio album, Home, in 2002. In between having babies, they found themselves in the face of controversy when they announced during their Home tour, they were ashamed of their President.
It was a bold move that backfired. Record sales dropped, death threats were made, and in between convincing fans to burn Dixie Chicks albums, radio stations also stopped playing them. But if that was a move to destroy Dixie Chicks, then it didn’t work. They returned with Taking The Long Way — which quickly became a number one album — and an attitude that showed they had matured.
Produced by the legendary producer Rick Rubin — who has produced many big name acts including Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Johnny Cash and U2 — this is the Dixie Chicks at their finest. When Rubin described his vision for Taking The Long Way to Martie Maguire he said “I think this should sound like a great rock act making a country album, not a country act making a rock album.”
Taking The Long Way is not a country band playing rock, but more a rock band playing country. There are the usual fiddles that come with a country album, but this time around something is different about the Chicks. They have a heavier sound with more oomph to both their vocals and music. Their lyrics are an emotional roller coaster that range from anger in “Not Ready To Make Nice”, to the loss of family in “Silent House” and ”Favorite Year”.
Taking The Long Way is as hard rock as Country can get, and clearly shows how they dealt with the political backlash they received in 2003.
“Not Ready To Make Nice” clearly asserts that the attack on their freedom of speech, still stings. And, as they sing in the song, they could “never kiss all the asses they told me to”, and walk silently through life accepting decisions made, that they thought were wrong. This song can be interpreted as a kiss-my-ass to all of those who treated Dixie Chicks like vermin, simply for voicing what many other Americans were feeling.
Dixie Chicks contributed lyrically to every song on Taking The Long Way, and as such it is an autobiographical journey for them through that political backlash, and their own struggles with infertility, and loss. It’s almost as if singing about what has happened in their lives will help with their healing and allow them to move forward.
John Mayer contributes to “Baby Hold On”, however the Dixie Chicks originally hadn’t planned on having Mayer contribute to their album. As the story goes, Mayer was recording next door and heard the Chicks recording their album came down and started playing guitar. “Baby Hold On” has Mayer’s familiar guitar playing written all over it, and for Mayer fans who know his music well, it is instantly recognisable.
“I Like it” is an upbeat song, which has a Californian feel, and works well into the album. It is easy to see that this was a band influenced by the likes of Tom Petty, and The Mamas and the Papas. I don’t think there is a song on Taking The Long Way that I dislike. All songs stand alone, and are strong both lyrically and emotionally.
Favorite songs: “Not Ready To Make Nice”, “Favorite Year”, “I Like It”, “Lubbock Or Leave It”
I give this album 4/5