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Dixie Chicks with Joan Osborne

Sunday, May 11; Savvis Center

Their meteoric rise from playing Dallas sidewalks well documented, the growth spurts and sputters of the Texas-bred Dixie Chicks have become more intriguing since the release of the group's 1999 sophomore smash, Fly.

In that short window of time, the group publicly -- sometimes nastily -- fought Sony Records for greater control over its career and artistry and essentially won. However, come 2003 Grammy time -- always a good time to be a Chick, as evidenced by the trio's four awards -- lead singer Natalie Maines could do nothing but shower the monolithic major label with praise. Huh? Then came Nat's infamous confession to fans on a British tour stop earlier this year that she was "embarrassed" by President Bush's handling of the conflict in Iraq. As Clear Channel affiliates back in the States scrambled to pull the Chicks' tunes from rotation, Maines was doing some scrambling of her own -- namely through a chickenshit apology to President Bush for her "disrespectful" comments.

What Maines and her more statuesque finger-pickin' mates -- fiddler Martie Maguire and banjo player Emily Robison -- should have realized in both instances is that they're fucking rock stars. And rock stars can generally say whatever they please without fear of retribution. On the Chicks' third and finest release, Home, they essentially do, with songs such as "More Love" and the spare, beautiful "Travelin' Soldier" subtly deriding the hawks that run roughshod over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

These Chicks can get away with whatever they damn well please lyrically because, well, they're exceptional tunesmiths. The annoying chipmunk harmonies that marred the group's first two albums are gone on Home, and Maines proves she's a vocal powerhouse who can tackle everything from luscious lullabies to bluegrass hoedowns. The Chicks are all growed up musically -- full-fledged chickens, sans the shit.

 
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