tue 15/06/2021

Album: The Chicks - Gaslighter | reviews, news & interviews

Album: The Chicks - Gaslighter

Album: The Chicks - Gaslighter

The Chicks have ditched the Dixie but kept the country

Natalie Maines, Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Strayer

I have had an obsessive-loop Dixie Chicks tune for every eventuality of my life so far – “Ready To Run” for a big break up; “Wide Open Spaces” for road tripping; “Cowboy Take Me Away” for whimsical love affairs; “Not Ready To Make Nice” for general rage and “Travelin’ Soldier” for a good old cry.

With the release of their 8th album, some 14 years after the last, I am wondering if there is a fitting sound for unkempt-hairy-make-up-lacking-global-pandemic-PJ-wearing-lockdown-lacklustre. And I’m delighted to say, that of course there is. Not only have the 13 time Grammy winning group produced an excellent, recognisable, uplifting, all-feels-feeling set of tracks, they've also responded to world events in almost real time - dropping the name Dixie from The Chicks due to its associations with slavery, and marrying up “March” to #BlackLivesMatter.

The Chicks first got themselves a name for rebellion when they criticised George W Bush and the Iraq invasion at a London gig - a comment that ended in death threats for the band and a massive drop in US record sales. No longer nervous of political criticism, a powerful video accompanies “March March”, featuring the names of those who have died as the result of police brutality - Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Tamir Rice, Brian Keith Day and Eric Reason - alongside protest footage and images of Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai. Their opinion on voting and using your voice to up rise and be the change is clear in the lyrics “March to my own drum, I'm an army of one.”

But the rest of the album is infinitely more personal. The band may have divorced themselves from the Southern ideology of racism and segregation and those who wave the Dixie flag, but they have not removed the country from their sound. The title track of the same name spells out the fakery, trappings and misogyny of Hollywood, and the album has all the fiddles and banjos (“Sleep At Night”) emo-folk-ballads (“Everybody Loves You”), harmonicas and hoedowns (“For Her”) you could ask for.

But there’s less kitsch cowgirl and more of a strong statement, of feminism and the future, largely at the hands of lead singer Natalie Maines’ ex-husband. “Tights On My Boat” tells the story of when he smuggled his mistress on board their yacht and she left her tights behind; and “Julianna Calm Down” – an excellent tune with all the catch and quirk of a Christine and the Queens track, that quips "Put on your best shoes, and strut the fuck around like you've got nothing to lose" – names women on the precipice of heartbreak and devastation.

The only thing that I do not like about Gaslighter is that I could cry for want of jumping round to a live gig in celebration of these women and their supreme songs. Roll on real life and The Chicks’ post-pandemic new-world touring plans.

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