These girls have enough self-belief and chutzpah to ride out any storm. Make no...
Chris Jones 2002-11-20
Now the dust has settled on that controversial remark maybe it's time to once again judge the Chicks on their music rather than their opinions. The brouhaha that followed Natalie'scomment about Dubya probably confirmed many people's deepest fears about the kind of people who listen to homegrown American music. But country music has always been a contradictory beast; lending itself to hijacking by more reactionary elements due to its espousal of 'good old fashioned values', while at its best using traditional skills (of which the Chicks have plenty) to paint a beautifully honest portrait of working class life. Top Of The World is undoubtedly an exercise in capitalising on the Dixie Chicks' stadium-filling status, but hopefully it will draw a line under all this unpleasantness.
Ironically last year's Home was the kind of fantastic work that swept away all the above wrongheaded preconceptions and made their crossover appeal even stronger. At the same time it mixed its wry, tearstained tales of shotgun weddings, small town love and ambitions with a dexterity, slickness and humour that ensured they were now a world class act. This record of the following tour, with its proud boast of 'no overdubs' merely confirms what US audiences have known for a while: This trio can really play.
Two discs cover all the best points in their small (but perfectly formed) back catalogue. A large smattering of Home is peppered with choice cuts from Fly and Wide Open Spaces. If there's a criticism to be levelled it's that, with a large supporting cast and high production values (five stylists and a pilates yoga instructor?), the Chicks can be too slick. Heartstring-pullers like ''Travellin' Soldier'' or Stevie Nick's ''Landslide'' are dispatched amite hurriedly, with Natalie's voice being a little too strident and the huge venues seeming to dull the impact of Emily and Martie's finer picking.
Mind you, the uptempo numbers like ''White Trash Wedding'', ''Goodbye Earl'' or''Hello Mr Heartache'' just brim over with riotous good humour; and the closer ''Sin Wagon'' makes you realise that these girls have enough self-belief and chutzpah to ride out any storm. Make no mistake, they're here to stay...