The Chicks'Home | The controversy that almost ended the career
Home is The Chicks (aka Dixie Chicks) third studio album released in August 2002. An album that was meant to go back to the roots of country music and which unexpectedly sparked a strong controversy.
The origin of the album
After several years of absence from the music scene, in 2001 Natalie Maines invited her bandmates – the sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer – to her house in Texas. The US country music band wanted to remember how the instruments and their voices perfectly blended together.
At that time the trio was facing a dispute with the Sony label and needed some familiar and relaxing time.
Because of the conflict with their label, the Chicks started making music not knowing what the future would hold. Fortunately, after 11 months, a final agreement cleared the way for the release of the new album, Home.
Founded in 1989, the band became a hitmaker after the joining of Natalie Maines and signing with Sony in 1995. The music industry knew the Chicks as the outrageous band which combined country with pop music. This time, in contrast with the previous albums, Home included pure bluegrass sounds, highlighting the fiddle, guitars, and banjo.
Maines’s father, steel guitar artist Lloyd Maines, helped with the production in a cozy studio just an hour away from their homes.
The atmosphere was laid back, with friends dropping by from time to time, with no deadlines. It was making music while taking care of their families and children. Original tracks were written and resonance was found in pre-released songs, creating the band’s own versions.
Landslide is an example of an effective cover. Maines doesn’t go too far from Stevie Nicks‘s original and at the same time makes it her own.
A career full of controversy
The Chicks were no strangers to criticism. Maines, Maguire, and Strayer wanted a more contemporary country sound, only finding resistance from the stern US country music industry, often disapproving of the pop crossover. The original band’s name also caused discontent. The country band was born as the Dixie Chicks in reference to country-rock group Little Feat’s 1973 Dixie Chicken album.
The label was concerned because “Dixie” was a shorthand for the former Confederate states and several times suggested the artists reviewed their name. The band decided to keep it as it was, only dropping the “Dixie” in 2020 given the increased issue of discrimination against black people.
With Home, another controversy was just around the corner. The Chicks wanted to speak up their minds, telling what they were feeling and thinking.
The album covers various topics: motherhood, feminism, and open criticism of the system.
Truth n°2, written by folk artist Patty Smith, is about speaking your mind in the face of public dissent. Lyrics such as “you don’t like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth” unexpectedly anticipated what happened next.
A statement that almost ended their career
In 2003 the group started touring, promoting the album.
During the London concert, lead singer Natalie Maines made controversial comments about U.S. President George W. Bush, criticizing his role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq which was about to happen in 9 days. The singer said: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence. And we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.”
One comment changed everything for the trio. A strong dissent arose among the country music fans which at the time mostly supported Bush. Radio stations removed the group’s songs from the setlists and asked to boycott the album and the US tour.
The Chicks received death threats, the sales dropped and sponsors suddenly disappeared.
This violent backlash lasted for years and deeply affected the band, as documented in the 2006 documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing.
Pioneers of todays’ country music
After years of silence and a new perspective on the 2003 invasion of Iraq from American society, the Chicks were able to perform at the 2007 Grammy awards. They performed a new song Not Ready to Make Nice which was about standing by your beliefs.
The treatment received by the public and the music industry was not easy to forget though. For the following 13 years, the members embarked on side projects and decided to dedicate most of their time to family, only coming back on the scene in 2020.
The listener can appreciate Maines’s vocals and the poly-instrumental Maguire and Strayer. It is an album that was born with no intention of being published, no aim to bring dispute, and which on the contrary set a distinctive path for the band’s future.