2017 CD/DVD REVIEW
DCX MMXV1 (SONY)
GOODBYE GEORGE AND EARL
“Goodbye, Earl, those black-eyed peas/ they tasted all right to me, Earl/ you're feeling weak/ why don't you lay down and sleep, Earl/ ain't it dark/ wrapped up in that tarp, Earl/ well, the weeks went by and spring turned to summer/ and summer faded into fall/ and it turns out he was a missing person/ who nobody missed at all.” - Goodbye Earl - Dennis Linde.
This talented Texan trio long ago proved they would never be known as one trick chicks.
They frequently topped charts with eclectic original country rock and bluegrass that reached back to a busking era as a quirky quartet in 1989.
But since arrival of lead singer Natalie Maines in 1995 the trio has won 13 Grammys and sold more than 31 million albums despite a six year hiatus from 2008-2014.
That followed a ban by mainstream country radio after Natalie voiced freedom of speech at a 2003 London concert about fellow Texan and then President George W Bush's Iraq war mission.
On March 10 during the concert, nine days before the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq, Natalie told the audience: "We don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States George W. Bush is from Texas".
But that was then and this 23 track double CD and bonus live DVD was recorded during their 2016 reunion tour before the Trump typhoon blew into power.
The first CD begins with their originals The Long Way Around and Lubbock Or Leave It and also includes two Patty Griffin tunes Truth No 2 and Top Of The World.
Another original Easy Silence precedes Darrell Scott's epic Long Time Gone , Prince cover Nothing Compares 2 U and John Keen's Something In The Air .
But the fiery finale is Goodbye Earl - one of the great domestic violence revenge anthems - penned by prolific late Abilene born Texan hit writer Dennis Linde who died at 63 on December 2, 2006.
The vanquished villain meets his Waterloo with poisoned back eyed peas.
A taste teaser of sorts for Oklahoma oriole Carrie Underwood's Church Bells - a highlight her 10th album Storyteller.
The bullied belle victim in that latter day classic - penned by Zach Crowell, Brett James and Hilary Lindsay - poisoned her perpetrator's Tennessee Whiskey.
“I cried, never gonna hold the hand of another guy/ too young for him they told her/ waitin' for the love of a travelling soldier/ our love will never end/ waitin' for the soldier to come back again/ never more to be alone when the letter said/ a soldier's coming home/ one Friday night at a football game/ the Lord's Prayer said and the Anthem sang/ a man said, "Folks would you bow your heads/ for a list of local Vietnam dead”/ crying all alone under the stands/ was a piccolo player in the marching band/ and one name read but nobody really cared/ but a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair.” - Travelling Soldier - Bruce Robison.
But it's the second CD that enables them to recreate history with the timely entrée - an acoustic version of Bruce Robison's Travelling Soldier.
This was the poignant parable that was sitting at #2 on country charts when Natalie, now 42, spoke out in London.
Ironically, it was a peaceful paean about a young woman who lost her new beau at battle in the ill-fated Vietnam War.
And, of course, the writer was Bandera born Bruce Robison - brother of Charlie who was once wed to banjo player Emily Strayer, nee Irwin.
Emily, now 45, and mandolinist-fiddler sister Martie McGuire, now 47, were in the original Dixie Chicks quartet that began in 1989 with Laura Lynch on upright bass and guitarist Robin Lynn Macy.
It segues into another Patty Griffin tune Don't Let Me Die In Florida that is even more prophetic than the writer ever imagined with the hurricanes that flooded Texas, Louisiana and Florida early in September.
It was also on Griffin's recent American Kid LP.
But Beyonce song Daddy Lessons that accompanies the trio's original White Trash Wedding from their sixth album Home in 2002 in the acoustic quartet that precedes a quintet medley of bluegrass instrumentals paying homage to late pioneer Bill Monroe in Roanoke and Wheel Hoss .
It also includes another Beyonce song Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) showcased live with her at the Grammys and Jack White's Seven Nation Army .
Then it's back to the hits with Ready To Run , penned by Martie and Marcus Hummon, Bob Dylan tune Mississippi and their Stevie Nicks penned hit Landslide.
COWBOY AND COWGIRL WEDDING WALTZ
“Cowboy take me away/ fly this girl as high as you can/ into the wild blue, set me free oh I pray/ closer to heaven above and closer to you/ cowboy take me away.” - Cowboy Take Me Away - Martie Maguire-Marcus Hummon
Equally relevant is the Martie Maguire-Marcus Hummon bridal celebration Cowboy Take Me Away , performed by Natalie and the sisters at the Cibolo Creek ranch Texas wedding of Emily and Charlie Robison, now 53, in May, 1999.
Hummon revealed many moons ago he misheard Martie during their writing session and thought it was about a soap called Calgon .
“She said “no, cowboy. Cowboy Take Me Away. Emily's marrying a cowboy! She's marrying Charlie he actually breaks horses; you know, he sings country songs.” Hummon explained.
“I was really happy. Actually, it was a really interesting write. I have a cassette somewhere. I kept the cassette running while we wrote it and I had a few little lines at just the very beginning of the song. And she had the melody on mandolin. It was one of those odd things, it was a song written in minutes. It was like stream of consciousness. We were going back and forth, it was done.”
The song, originally on the trio's 1999 album Fly , lasted longer on radio with live revamps than the nine year marriage that produced three sons including twins.
With supreme Texan genetics Charlie's brother Bruce, 51, and singing spouse Kelly Willis are also parents of four including twins.
This disc also features 1998 album title track Wide Open Spaces , penned by Groobees singer Susan Gibson, and rollicking original Sin Wagon .
Not Ready To Make Nice , penned by the trio with Dan Wilson, about their reaction to the banning of their songs from country music radio and freedom of speech.
It impacted as the first single from their 2006 seventh album, Taking the Long Way, and biggest selling tune.
Salient sequencing finds it preceding Ben Harper's Better Way - an evocative healing anthem even more relevant in these troubled times and a fitting finale.
The double CD is accompanied by a marathon 22 song live concert DVD filmed during their 2016 Canada and U.S. tour - their first in a decade before returning here in 2017.
They are backed by drummer Jimmy Paxon, bassist Glenn Funkunaga, organist-pianist John Ginty and electric guitarist-mandolinist Justin Weaver and Keith Sewell on acoustic guitar and mandolin.
At some concerts the trio performed Ready to Run in front of animation mocking candidates in the 2016 presidential primaries.
Maines released a 2103 solo album Mother and Emily and Martie released two Court Yard Hounds albums - a 2010 self-titled disc and 2013 album Amelita - during their hiatus.
They were edible entrées for the prophetic and mirthful magic from a trio that returned in March and April for its third Australian tour.