It's been ten years since the Dixie Chicks' scandal rocked the country music world.  It was March 10th of 2003 that Natalie Maines told a London audience that was she "ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas."  And since that time, it's been a mixed bag.  There have been major successes and major disappointments for the trio.  Among the successes, fivetrophies at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards.  Their comeback effort, Taking The Long Way, was named Best Album and Best Country Album.  Their defiant anthem "Not Ready to Make Nice" was named Record of the Year and Song of the Year.  And the group won the award for Best Country Vocal Duo or Group.  Among the disappointments, the Accidents and Accusations Tourwhich launched the same year.  Ticket sales were strong in some parts of the country . . . a total bust in others.  Some dates were moved from arenas to smaller venues.  Some dates were canceled outright.  While the industry had welcomed them back with open arms, many of their fans had not.  For the Chicks, things just haven't been the same.  And now, Natalie Maines, the group's lead singer, is branching out on her own.

Natalie Maines will release her first solo effort, called Mother, on May 7th.  I found a sneak preview of the disc on YouTube and, in it, Natalie explains how the project, rather accidentally, came about.

The title track of the CD is "Mother" and it's a remake of a Pink Floyd classic. Take a listen.

To me, it seems that Natalie has become the product of a rather self-fulfilling prophecy made by the Chicks in September of 2003.  That's when Martie Maguire told a German magazine that the Dixie Chicks don't feel like they can be part of the "country" scene any longer.  While Natalie's voice will always have that "country" vibe, it doesn't appear that her solo debut is "country"-flavored at all.  And, to me, that may be a wasted opportunity.

How will Mother be received?  I have a hunch the country faithful won't pay much attention to it.  I'm not sure those who remained fans of the Dixie Chicks will either.  Natalie's solo material is just . . . well .  .. different.

And, for me, that's the real tragedy in all this.  The Dixie Chicks were the darlings of country music from roughly 1997 until March 10th of 2003.  During that time, they were giving country music fans something "different."  They were a trio of brash, ballsy, talented musicians and singers who pushed the envelope and challenged the accepted "country" conventions.  Unfortunately, in a brief, fleeting moment, they pushed some of the country faithful a little too far and were banished from the country ranks forever.

To me . . . that's a little "different."  Quite frankly, I am glad Natalie Maines has come to terms with the realization that the Dixie Chicks' legacy is "tainted permanently" (as she recently explained to Howard Stern on his satellite radio show).  Because, like it or not, it is "tainted permanently."  And my reasons for thinking so may be completely "different" than yours.

But see . . . I like "different."  And I believe being "different" can utlimately lead to making a "difference."  At the end of the day, I like to believe that time can actually heal these wounds and, at some point, we can all truly get along again.  I understand why Natalie Maines and the rest of the Chicks feel alienated by "country."  I really do get it.  And I understand why they don't feel compelled to make "country" music.  I, personally, just wish they would.

Country music, more than any other genre, builds bridges and mends fences.  And, here, there are fences in need of mending . . . on both sides.  It seems to me that the Dixie Chicks have just stopped reaching out to the country audience for fear there are no arms reaching back at them.  But, I'm just not convinced this is the case.  They left a void in country music that has been left vacant for ten years.

The Chicks said, in their Record of the Year, "They say time heals everything.  But I'm still waiting."  Well, we are too and some of us are ready to make nice.