Long may they go their own way...
Chris Jones 2002
On first listen, Taking The Long Way comes across as a far more dour affair than the Chicks' previous two studio albums, Fly and Home, both of which sold over 10 million copies. There are no bluegrass or pure country jaunts to raise a smile here. But that's hardly surprising when you consider what these Texans, who dared to criticise the president, have had to endure over the last two years.
First single "Not Ready To Make Nice" roundly sums up Natalie Maine's anger over being pilloried in the land of free speech (while demonstrating her intensely powerful vocal skills). But the fact remains that while Taking... may be short on laughs, it's still the product of three extraordinary talents who were never going to be contained by the mere epiphet 'country'.
A lot of the dourness comes from Rick Rubin's flat production. His more rock-based approach (aided by various members of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers) puts the overall sound firmly into the mainstream. Co-wrritten songs by Sheryl Crow and Neil Finn (the very Crowded House "Bitter End") also contribute to a more generic, FM friendly feel but the sheer quality of the material and the performances shines out. It's a fiercely independent statement that's tempered with tracks such as "Lullaby" that demonstrate their tender sides.
This is an album that obviously needed to be made, and while it may not fit squarely with the Nashville crowd it will undoubtedly win them far more support in homes not used to the ironies of Music City. Long may they go their own way...