They were known as country music “mavericks” long before lead singer Natalie Maines’ 2003 “anti-Bush” comments. Now, with Taking the Long Way, the Dixie Chicks let the world know that they are going to continue to say what they feel — and believe — in their own unique, harmonious way.
A lot of the playfulness found on earlier Dixie Chicks releases is missing on Taking the Long Way. Songs of love and heartbreak are joined by tunes that address the trio’s never wanting to be “followers” (the title track) and their determination to survive the trials and tribulations that they’ve endured (including death threats) since Natalie’s infamous remarks during a show in London, England (“Not Ready to Make Nice,” the CD’s first single).
The Chicks’ harmonies and musicianship shine throughout the album, and are enhanced by producer Rick Rubin’s (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond) ability to bring out the edginess on some tracks, and the softness of a ballad on others.
In addition to Rubin, several notable musicians contributed to the rock ’n’ roll sound of Taking the Long Way: Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith, studio legend Larry Knechtel, as well as Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell.
Natalie, Emily and Martie honed their songwriting skills on each of the album’s 14 tracks. Among the songwriters who co-wrote with the Dixie Chicks on this release include Sheryl Crow, Keb’ Mo’, Dan Wilson, Gary Louris (Jayhawks) and Pete Yorn.
The last cut of the CD, “I Hope,” was co-written by the Chicks and Keb’ Mo’. It’s a positive, yet serious song that in lyrics and sound is reminiscent of a Staple Singers gospel tune.
They may not sell as many copies of Taking the Long Way as they have their previous albums (over 28 million copies of their first three studio releases), but the Dixie Chicks continue to do things their way.