There seems to be no middle ground on The Dixie Chicks. Lead singer Natalie Maines is definitely one of the most polarizing figures in Popular Music over the past two decades. At the same time, there is no denying that she is also one of the most talented female vocalists in Country — or any other form of music in the past twenty years.
If you closely examine the rich musical legacy of Natalie, Martie, and Emily, you will find a song catalog that might be brief in number, but one of the most potent song collections of any musical act, any genre, any time period. This list of the 10 best Dixie Chicks songs are proof of that heritage — and also makes us wish they would record again — soon!
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10. The Dixie Chicks – “Tonight The Heartache’s On Me”
The fifth and final single from their Monument debut Wide Open Spaces, this track is one of two songs on this list that was originally recorded by songstress Joy White. It’s easy to see why the group was a fan of the singer, as her style and that of Natalie Maines were very similar. As far as the Chicks’ version of this song, it was rather refreshing to hear something akin to a shuffle on Country Radio in the summer of 1999. And, they pulled it off as nobody else could.
9. The Dixie Chicks – “Travellin’ Soldier”
The song that represented the group’s final trip to the top of the Country charts is one that definitely falls within the guidelines of a classic Country sub-genre — the story song. Bruce Robison’s haunting lyrics about an emotional night at a football game that nobody — save one girl in the marching band — totally got the significance of gave Natalie Maines an opportunity to prove just how emotional and powerful she could be as a vocalist.
8. The Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away”
Group member Martie Maguire and Marcus Hummon penned this moving number about a woman wanting a little bit of peace in her life. Maguire’s fiddle work was all over this song — which became a minor hit on Christian stations — in Uganda? One never knows where or how a song might catch on, but this one did everywhere!
7. The Dixie Chicks – “Not Ready To Make Nice”
Is Natalie Maines somewhat outspoken? That could be an understatement. However, the decision of Country Radio’s most influential decision-makers to pull the group’s music is one decision that I wish could have been reversed. It has nothing to do with politics. The Dixie Chicks are just that damn good. The fallout from Maines’ comments about President Bush while on stage overseas was swift and huge. Many even threatened the lives of the group — who had family members serving in the military at the time, throwing water on the theory that the group was anti-American. The lyrics dripped with anger, pain, and rage all at once, winning them a trio of Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and…..Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with vocal, ironically. Politics aside, the awards were definitely deserved!
6. The Dixie Chicks – “Some Days You Gotta Dance”
This rollicking Dixie Chicks song made the day of many country fans in the fall of 2011. But, as history would have it, the group wasn’t the first to record the Troy Johnson / Marshall Morgan composition. The song was originally cut by a group on Capitol Records called The Ranch in 1997. And, chances are pretty good that you’ve heard of their lead singer. His name? Keith Urban.
5. The Dixie Chicks – “Landslide”
The group has made no secret of the fact that they are each fans of the work of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. The Pop classic was an unlikely choice for the group’s Bluegrass flavored disc Home. But, to say they made it work — is an understatement of the nth degree.
4. The Dixie Chicks – “Cold Day In July”
Another Dixie Chicks song that was originally cut by Joy Lynn White, this gripping song of heartbreak and loss put Maines’ vocals front and center. The final single from Fly, this still ranks high as one of her most moving and evocative vocal performances.
3. The Dixie Chicks – “You Were Mine”
When you have a lead singer that is as effective as Natalie Maines, it’s easy — yet unfortunate — to ignore the harmonies and instrumental prowess of sisters Emily Erwin and Maguire. However, though Maines’ was front and center this emotional ballad, the sisters gained quite a bit of attention for their role in authoring the pain-staking ballad.
2. The Dixie Chicks – “Wide Open Spaces”
Songwriter Susan Gibson began this song after returning home for the first time since starting college at the University of Montana. The lyrics definitely struck a chord with any young woman who was itching to establish her own roots in life. Natalie’s father, steel wizard Lloyd Maines, brought the song to the attention of the group, and the resulting factor was one of the most identifiable Dixie Chicks songs in their impressive catalog.
1. The Dixie Chicks – “Long Time Gone”
It was one hell of an artistic statement when the group released this flashy tune in the fall of 2002. After all, they were at the top of their commercial game when they released the first single off of Home. The song was an instant hit at Country Radio, even though the Darrell Scott-written song took a few pokes at the modern Country Music industry with the lines “Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard,They got money but they don’t have Cash,They got Junior but they don’t have Hank,” proving that Maines would speak her mind even before her controversial statements about the Chief Executive.