Friday, June 16, 2006

Ready to Make Nice, But Just For You

Growing up in southern Indiana, I could not escape country music, no matter how hard I tried. For the first ten years of my life, it didn't really matter, because I was so used to it. On the bus to school, shopping at the Dollar Store with my grandma, hanging out at my grandpa's sheet metal shop, it was everywhere I went, and I didn't mind. Hell, I counted Reba McEntire's "Fancy" as one of my favorite songs, and I knew all the words to Pam Tillis' "Shake the Sugar Tree" (I can't believe I just admitted that). My first concert (involuntarily and very unfortunately) was AARON fucking TIPPIN, for chrissakes!

Anyway, somewhere around 6th grade, I became aware of the horrible crap that country music really was (especially in the early-mid nineties - hello, "Watermelon Crawl"), and was completely repulsed by it. If it started playing while I was in the grocery store with my mom, I would leave and go sit in the car. I refused to socialize with anyone who listened to the likes of Shania Twain, Trisha Yearwood, or -barf- LeAnn Rimes. I listened to grunge, and just because I was wearing flannel didn't mean I needed cowboy boots to go along with it, thank you very much.

Since then, I've tried to avoid typical, run-of-the-mill, drinkin'-beer-with-my-dog-cause-my-wife-done-runned-off-with-my-brother country music. I mock women who are members of the Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney fan clubs. I did, however, religiously watch the first season of Nashville Star three years ago, although I'm still not sure why.

However, I will make one exception.

The Dixie Chicks never really mattered much to me in the beginning. I dismissed them as just another fluffy blonde country group, which is really how they started out. Later, I somehow acquired a copy of their 1999 album Fly, which was okay for two reasons - a song about killing an abusive husband ("Goodbye Earl") and another song entitled "Sin Wagon." I didn't keep this CD in active rotation, though, and really didn't think much of the Dixie Chicks for a while. Until 2003.

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On March 10, 2003, right before the US invasion of Iraq, during a performance in London, Natalie Maines made her infamous statement: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." It wasn't a speech, it wasn't even more than a single sentence, but it would change everything for the Dixie Chicks. And, in my opinion, that change was the best thing that ever happened to them.

Today, I'm listening to a copy of their newest album, "Taking the Long Way, that I've borrowed from a co-worker. Music-wise, it's not evolved too remarkably - still lots of steel guitar, piano, and fiddle. But the lyrics are what make all the difference. On the song "Not Ready to Make Nice," Natalie addresses the death threats she's received with "It's a sad sad story/That a mother will teach her daughter/That she ought to hate a perfect stranger/And how in the world/Can the words that I said/Send somebody so over the edge/That they'd write me a letter/Saying that I better shut up and sing/Or my life will be over..." In "Lubbock or Leave It," the repressive southern Christian culture is addressed with "Dust bowl, Bible belt/Got more churches than trees/Raise me, praise me, couldn't save me/Couldn't keep me on my knees..."

In short, I like the Dixie Chicks now because they strong, outspoken women who are disgusted with the President, concerned about the political world climate, and challenge the traditional values with which they were raised. Plus, they have great fashion sense. And I'm all about that.


The Cold War said...

I knew it! You're soft on country!

ads510 said...

I completely absolutely positively adore the chicks and hate the rest of country music. I saw them live at Lillith Fair a long time ago, and I saw them in Louisville two years ago. They put on a pretty kickass show. And the best part about them is that they are completely smart, articulate, cute, liberal young moms. What more could you ask for in a group?

gigi said...

see? i'm not the only one!

indygirl said...

And they play their own instruments.

ads510 said...

indy's right. and a girl playing the banjo is definitely a good thing.

rilah said...

OMG, that is hilarious cuz i've had the hate relationship with country, too - except for "fancy", "sin wagon" and "goodbye earl" (and i think maybe "she's in love with the boy" even though it's trisha - while i was rocking the plaid-grunge look and listening to alice in chains.

one of the only great things about canada's bushism (because is hating a person ever a good thing?) right now is the fact the so many people, regardless of their musical taste, have offered up canada's adoption of the dixie chicks. and not just because they DO have STYLE!

great post!

gusgreeper said...

she said heres your one chance FANCY don't let me down....

i have always loved them from the begining but not before natalie joined them. i saw the fly tour live and it was AWESOME!!

one of my first concerts was nitty gritty dirt band and charlene carter.

FreeThinker said...

Great post, great blog! I'm trying to enjoy the new Dixie Chicks CD without letting politics get in the way (for the record, I too am ashamed of the President).

aughra said...

My mom bought the album just to support them.

I'm not really into them, but Patty Griffin, who wrote a couple songs on Fly, is AMAZING. She's one of my favorites. If you don't have anything by her, email me and I'll burn you some CDs, although I'd prefer that you buy one or two to support her.