Dixie Chicks: Playlist – The Very Best of the Dixie Chicks

Short overview of game-changing country trio’s career

Whether or not Natalie Maines’ opinions give you heartburn, there’s no denying her arrival in the Dixie Chicks launched the group to unparalleled commercial and artistic success. With her lead vocals and her bandmates’ harmonies and instrumental chops, the group cut a new template for commercial country radio, finding favor with both the mainstream and traditionalist crowds. All was peaches and cream until Maines’ outspoken criticism of the Bush administration placed them at odds with the Nashville establishment and many of the band’s fans. But in the face of a country radio backlash, the group stuck to their guns, found favor with the pop buying public, and netted their fourth consecutive country album Grammy – and their first Album of the Year – with the unapologetic Taking the Long Way.

This twelve song collection includes tracks from the four studio albums recorded with Maines’ as lead vocalist, and skips over the group’s three earlier releases. It follows the form of earlier Playlist releases by combining a selection of hits with album tracks that the artist has selected as representative of their career. That means most of the Dixie Chicks’ sixteen Top 10 hits are omitted in favor of album tracks (all twelve tracks have been previously issued and are readily available on the group’s regular releases), including the concert favorite “Sin Wagon” and a poignant cover of Patty Griffin’s “Let Him Fly.” The chronological set plays quite well, giving listeners a good helping of the Chicks’ vocal and instrumental talents, and shows how they straddled the line between rootsy twang and polished radio country with their cannily selected cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” The Dixie Chicks deftly bridged their country home base with their pop influences, magnifying, rather than losing, the potency of each.

These songs say as much about the group members’ lives as their careers, following the turbulence of divorces and marriages, professional daring, and settled family lives. The disc is delivered in an all-cardboard folder, with a digital booklet that includes six highly-styled photographs, liner notes, production/writing/chart credits, an interactive album discography (that conveniently links to Sony BMG’s online store), and a pair of desktop wallpapers. What’s here is compelling, but what’s missing is essential to really telling the group’s story; a recitation of the group’s hits can be put together from digital download services, but at a cost that’s likely to keep many waiting for a more definitive greatest hits collection or career anthology. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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