Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wait, a Music Review??? Natalie Maines Rides Again!

It's been years since the Dixie Chicks were crucified for an off-hand comment lead singer, Natalie Maines, made about President Bush in front of a London audience. Country music exploded and the trio was banned from radio.

They roared back with an indignant and multiple Grammy-winning album, Taking the Long Way, in 2006.

And then they disappeared. The sisters, Martie and Emily, surfaced in 2010 as the Courtyard Hounds.

Lead singer and spitfire, Natalie, remained largely out of the spotlight. I would see her pop up on the Internet here and there at this or that benefit concert. But it wasn't until earlier this month that she released any new material. Mother is her first solo album -- a mixture of covers and original songs co-produced by Ben Harper.

Truthfully, I wasn't quite sure what I thought of this album when I scrolled through the samples available on Amazon and iTunes. But, the bottom line is that I adore Natalie Maines: her voice, her song choices, her writing chops, her sensibilities (political and otherwise). I've written a lot about her and the Chicks on this blog over the years. For me, they are that definitive, formative band that's followed me from adolescence into adulthood.

I downloaded the album a couple of days after release and I'm SO glad I did!

This album has been labeled a rock album, but it's not the stereotypical rip-roaring, guitar-screaming sassiness you might immediately expect from Maines. It falls squarely on the moody, bluesy, singer/songwriter, introspective side. She covers seemingly unusual choices like Eddie Vedder's (Pearl Jam Eddie Vedder!) "Without You," and Patty Griffin's "Silver Bell." The crown jewel for critics seems to be her emotive interpretation of the late Jeff Buckley's "Lover You Should've Come Over."

It's a ballsy album, and I'd be seriously disappointed if I got anything less from Natalie Maines. While the songs are mostly mid-tempo and ballads, she's just such a damn good singer. This is one of the albums that compels you to actually listen closely to the lyrics, and I can hear that activist, humanitarian, introspective, philosopher rebellion in these songs. She has a point of view, and it's painted all over this album.

By far, my favorite song on the whole thing is "Take It On Faith" which Maines co-wrote. And she just so happened to perform it on Letterman recently. While I love the album, Maines is one of those artists whose live performance is just as good, if not better, than her recordings.

You're welcome!

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