• BEST IN STATE—Senior Courtney Schoen Lewis was named Best PR Student in Utah. Story

Dixie Chicks’ VH1 video is a passionate, intimate tear-jerker

December 6th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Max Parker Dahl

Emotions run high in the latest Dixie Chicks video documentary, but fans privy to the personal details that shaped what are arguably the best songs of the Chicks’ career share the band’s tears.

“Arguably” because these songs are almost exclusively from their Taking the Long Way release, and also because of the controversy and real life that are unapologetically loaded in each song. Shot during the height of the Chicks’ 2006 Taking the Long Way tour at the Los Angeles Theater, VH1’s Storytellers video captures the Dixie Chicks as they reveal intimate stories behind their songs.

The show makes a believer out of this skeptic. I was personally tired of the bumper stickers and Facebook wall quotes from “Cowboy Take Me Away” to “Wide Open Spaces.” The Dixie Chicks play at revival pace, but load their music with intensely personal moments, from the abusive Earl’s murder, to disease, death threats, promiscuous sex and relationship ills. Their voices are clear and strong and sweet, and their harmonies are cherubic. Like angels from Texas. I had heard too many radio plays and poor covers since elementary school to give the Chicks a serious look until Storytellers.

VH1 provides an opportunity for artists to explain the stories behind the music. Lead singer Natalie Maines opens the concert and her heart by “pretending ya’ll are in our living room,” and continues a extemporaneous dialogue among the lovely Dixie Chicks. You can clearly understand what Natalie Maines sings, but I found myself tuning out the message of the lyrics to enjoy her rich Southern ring.

Even on songs like “Silent House,” in which Maines is singing for an Alzheimer-stricken grandmother, the music and lyric and emotion are so well balanced that you can listen to it multiple times and hear something accentuated differently each time.

The range and tune of each song are pretty catchy, too; perfect for radio play, perfect for selling records. The visual presentation is also perfect. Every detail of stage set-up, make-up and the country-chic get-up helps you focus on the most important things. The music. The life. The fact that these ladies have been hurt, and have healed together. They don’t exist without each other.

Maybe that’s too far, but the music they have created is only possible with the trio. Their music defined and now defies the country genre. Without their pop-country sound in the late ’90s, there never would have been Taylor Swift or Lady Antebellum.

The anticipated performance of “Not Ready to Make Nice” was powerful, and met with a standing ovation. “It took us a while to not cry when we heard this song,” said Emily Erwin Robison, the banjo-picking sister. “We feel like it’s a very vulnerable song, but it was our therapy. We didn’t pay for therapy over the past few years, so we needed something to help us get through it all, and this song helped us do that.”

The stories behind each song were intricately woven between each member, and laughs and tears and ex-husbands are openly shared. The sisterhood—literally in the case of two-third of the trio, the Erwin girls—that exists with the Dixie Chicks is special. They know about each other’s kids, grandparents, successes and failures, which makes the music flow in a uniform direction.

Despite unprecedented success followed by a public crucifixion and ostracism after “the incident”—when front-Chick Maines told a London audience at the height of the Iraq war that she was ashamed that President George W. Bush was from Texas—these ladies say they are not “ready to play nice,” but in reality can’t escape being nice. Like people from Texas. They won me over with their sincerity. And their depth. Their humble story of wide-eyed appreciation is balanced by their controversial views, which gives dimension to their personalities. The Dixie Chicks may have been a public relations nightmare, but that is exactly what endears them to their fans.

Touring internationally for almost 15 years has given the Dixie Chicks the perspective and maturity and depth that musical troupes rarely attain. This Storyteller performance was definitive and powerful. The lights, camera and onstage action could not have been arranged better.


Tags: ,

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.