It’s been nearly seven years since the Dixie Chicks last released an album. A small album called Taking the Long Way only swept the Grammys and ushered the Chicks into a whole new realm of respect as they were coaxed back to the confidence the band lost after being ostracized from mainstream country.
Lead singer Natalie Maines, never one to be silenced, releases her anticipated debut solo album Mother May 7 on Columbia Records.
"I wanted this music to be very different from the Dixie Chicks," she said. "Lots of albums by lead singers might just as well have been made by the band, but I think this is very different from anything the Chicks could make. That separation and distinction was important."
While Maines dabbles in familiar Chick territory, Mother by and large shows what true Chicks’ fans have known since the beginning … Natalie Maines possesses a voice that is boundless to genre.
Maines has proven with various forays into Patty Griffin land (see “Let Him Fly” and “Top of the World”) that she can masterfully interpret songs and send them soaring onto another plane. While many of the albums 10 tracks are covers—ranging from Pink Floyd and Jeff Buckley to Eddie Vedder— it’s Maines’ ability to approach each track like delicate origami, folding herself and her voice into the song that will silence anyone clamoring for more original music.
It’s a jam session with good friend Ben Harper that spurred Maines to record her solo album. Recorded in Harper’s studio (he also co-produces the album), Maines showcases a ravenous rock attitude on the track “Trained.” And it’s not just her strong vocals, Maines is also rocking an edgy, new look.
The familiar Chick territory kicks off with the Dan Wilson assisted “Free Life.” It is easily the album’s best track. One listen and Maines immediately submerges listeners into a self-reflecting conversation when she plaintively sings_what you gonna spend your free life on._ Second listen and you feel empowered to change the world. Third and your mind is blown.
Chicks Emily and Martie even pop up as co-writers on “Come Cryin’ to Me”, a track deemed too rock for Taking the Long Way, but that fits perfectly on Mother.
Other album highlights include the somber “Vein in Vain.” The track offers Maines a chance to use her voice in a way listeners haven’t heard since the bridge in the Chicks’ “You Were Mine”. The song features Maines desperately waging a battle to get through the day and evokes listeners to find the silver lining amidst hopelessness.
Each of the album’s 10 tracks showcase a side of Maines audiences have waited for 10 years to see. The only problem with Mother is that there are not enough songs. After a seven-year hiatus, Mother leaves listeners wanting more Maines. Hopefully, there will not be a seven year wait for a follow-up.
Win a copy of 'Mother' from O&AN here