The Dixie Chicks

Who are the Dixie Chicks? Put simply, they're Chicks from Dixie. But that's only the smallest tip of the iceberg.

The Dixie Chicks (named for the Little Feat song "Dixie Chicken") began as a bluegrass group back in 1989 in Dallas, Texas, with founding members Robin Lynn Macy, Laura Lynch, and sisters Martie and Emily Erwin. Their first performances were on Dallas street corners, but soon led to more "sophisticated" appearances, including nightclubs, corporate gigs, and barbecues. After three independent albums, the Chicks had been reduced to the Erwin sisters, left in need of a lead singer who could help them transcend the small festival circuit to a hit mainstream country group. Enter Natalie Maines in 1995, whose father, steel guitarist Lloyd Maines, had played on previous Chick albums. When Martie and Emily asked her to join, Natalie didn't hesitate to drop her full vocal scholarship to a Boston music college and follow her dreams. And so, the Dixie Chicks as we now know them were hatched.

The Dixie Chicks' debut album, Wide Open Spaces, was released January 27, 1998, and hit gold in only 5 months. Before the year was through, the Chicks were already racking up award after award, including the Country Music Association's Horizon Award and Vocal Group of the Year. Out of five singles released, three were number-one hits, including You Were Mine, composed by Martie and Emily and the only Chicks-written song on the album. Although most of the songs were not Chick originals, the sound was. Covers like Bonnie Raitt's Give It Up Or Let Me Go and the Groobees' Wide Open Spaces took on a Dixie-life of their own, and the music industry raved the new sound.

On August 31, 1999, the Dixie Chicks followed up their successful debut album with Fly (so-named in place of the more risque' original title, "Sin Wagon"). The second album continued to break new ground, this time with 5 Chick-penned songs. In 2 weeks, the album was gold; in 2 months, double platinum. Songs from the album range from the traditional - Hello Mr. Heartache - to the pop mainstream - Ready To Run - to the controversial - Goodbye Earl. Each and every song, whether it's a Chicks original like Cowboy Take Me Away or a cover song like Let Him Fly, has its own sound, its own life, and its own Chicks flavor.

"We didn't want to remake Wide Open Spaces," says Emily of Fly, "so we had to go back to that nothing-to-lose feeling. I definitely think we've grown. It's been a couple of years since we recorded Wide Open Spaces and I think that shows. We're not as scared to let the harmonies come through or take extra time to have an awesome solo. The only rule this time around was that there were 'No rules'."

Natalie agrees, "We didn't want to be afraid to try something different. So we didn't go into it scared. We went into it thinking that we're just going to make the album we want to make and if people like it, great. If they don't, we wouldn't be happy about that, but at least we made the album we wanted to make."

Martie explains, "Just about everyone can relate to songs about needing the freedom to chase your dreams or dealing with a broken heart or falling in love or even just wanting to be a little wild and crazy every now and then. Women today are stronger and healthier than ever before but that can make male/female relationships better. When you're younger so much of life revolves around men and male acceptance that it's hard to know who you are. Then you reach this point in your life where you discover girlfriends provide so many things that you forget about men a little bit. It's not a negative thing because you have a better relationship when you don't depend on the man in your life for your whole identity."

So what is it, in our opinion, that makes the Dixie Chicks so great? Check out our page, The Lists for our top ten reasons why. In the meantime, the bottom line with this band that transcends gender and genre, is that every song has a way of making harmony with our lives, in one form or another. It's not just the music either, it's the empowering attitude that goes along with it. And for the two of us who make up, no other CD has lasted more than a few minutes in our players since the Chicks came to be our favorite band.

And as for longevity, perhaps Natalie says it best: "I have a feeling that if we're around for 20 years, there will still be things we do that scare them."

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