Dixie Chicks Are Back, And They’re Still Fighting For Free Speech

The Dixie Chicks are well-known for landing themselves in controversy due to their fearless and outspoken stance against the establishment.

Huffington Post reported that, thirteen years ago, the Texas-based all-female band faced boycotts, bans, and backlash from the public when lead singer Natalie Maines proclaimed that the band was ashamed of the Texan U.S. President, George W. Bush, when he decided to declare war on Iraq.

Banning a band because they made an anti-establishment statement seems almost old-fashioned amid today’s fiery political debate, but back in 2003, the backlash against Maines’ anti-war comment from the country community was swift and unforgiving. Radio stations banned the band’s music, and groups supporting the Republican President organized CD burnings where ex-fans could bring the trio’s albums to be burnt and smashed. These incidents were later recorded in the 2006 documentary Shut Up & Sing, which focused on the controversy and its subsequent fallout.

The backlash of 2003 almost killed the careers of the members of Dixie Chicks, and despite a Grammy-winning resurgence in 2006, a decade-long silence followed. However, that was 13 years ago, and now the Dixie Chicks are back with a newly-launched European tour and their first U.S. tour in a decade set to begin this summer. Commentators have noted that is the perfect time for the Dixie Chicks to make a comeback, in an era which is witnessing a dearth of women artists in the country music scene.

The Guardian reported that Dixie Chicks recently played at the O2 arena in London, and their return seemed remarkable.

Dixie Chicks lead vocalist Natalie Maines, violinist Martie Maguire, and banjo dobro player Emily Robison performed live and played beautiful numbers in the arena, which had expensive lighting in addition to screens playing monochrome video footage that paired beautifully with the songs. Although the band did not play any new material, The Guardian reported that the 15 songs (plus cover versions) they played could easily have been mistaken for songs that had been written in the current climate.

Dixie Chicks made sure to include hit numbers from artists like Prince and Sinead O’Connor, whose songs Maines dispensed with extraordinary gusto. The on-screen videos, the caricatures, and the special effects in the arena blended seamlessly with the country-bluegrass core, founded on the trio’s spun-steel harmonies and glittering musicianship. There were segments from their last album like “The Long Way Around” and “Lubbock or Leave It,” which delighted long time Dixie Chicks fans to no end, however “Travelin’ Soldier” was the song that conveyed the true essence of the band’s heartfelt southern balladry.

It may have been 13 years since they faced the government backlash, but the Dixie Chicks appear as fearless as ever, and the band hasn’t shed even an iota of their outspoken attitude.

Recently, the band came out with their support to Beyonce when her newly released track “Daddy Lessons” drew criticism for attempting to be a country song.

The critics of the Country Music Television criticized Beyonce for including some “yee-haws,” a little harmonica, and mention of classic vinyl, rifles, and whiskey in an attempt to make the song sound as if it was from the country genre. Additionally, critics slammed many of Beyonce’s collaborations on her new album Lemonade by claiming that the songs were not written by a country music songwriter and hence weren’t typical Nashville songs.

The Dixie Chicks stepped in to support the fellow Texan and proved the doubters wrong with their own stirring version of the fiery number. Never known to bow before the rigid rules set by the country music world, the Texas band was quick to add Beyoncé’s track to its list of cover versions. And when Dixie Chicks are playing a song that elaborately analyses male infidelity, it is sure to turn into an unsympathetic lament suggesting that unfaithful lovers are not be forgiven so easily.

[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]