The Dixie Chicks, Long Past Making Nice

The New York Times - Alan Light

CINCINNATI — In 2011, Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks took her twin daughters to a Taylor Swift concert, and it churned up some melancholy.
The Chicks, whose bluegrass roots and rock ’n’ roll spirit broke down country music barriers and made them the best-selling female band of all time in the United States, were in the middle of a lengthy hiatus. The trio had not been heard from since scaling back a 2006 tour that suffered from continuing reverberations from “the incident”: a remark the singer Natalie Maines had made about President George W. Bush a few years earlier.
“I was feeling like maybe our time had passed, and this was Taylor’s time,” said Ms. Maguire. Then Ms. Swift covered the Chicks’ 1999 hit “Cowboy Take Me Away,” much to her daughters’ astonishment, and the crowd sang along. Loudly.
Ms. Maguire said the moment was “surreal” and “super emotional.” Apparently, the world had not forgotten about the Dixie Chicks, whose four studio albums sold more than 30 million copies. Now, the band — Ms. Maines, Ms. Maguire and Emily Strayer — is finding out how much of its fan base is still out there. When the group members realized that 2015 would be their 20th anniversary together, they started thinking about how to mark the occasion; last week, they set out on their first headlining tour in the United States in 10 years. (They play Madison Square Garden on Monday, June 13.)
During the band’s break, Ms. Maguire and Ms. Strayer released two albums under the name Court Yard Hounds, and Ms. Maines put out a solo record, but they say that for now, new Dixie Chicks music is “not on the agenda.” Ms. Strayer (who was known as Emily Robison during the band’s glory years and who remarried in 2013) said that she and Ms. Maguire write regularly, “just to keep the muscle moving.” Ms. Maines added, “My muscle for songwriting is like a 600-pound man right now — way flabby, not exercised at all.”
But live, the trio sounds like it has never been away. “I just wait for it to feel right, and it felt right,” said Ms. Maines, 41, on the night before the 53-city “DCX MMXVI Tour” kicked off. The Chicks gathered in a backstage lounge at the Riverbend Music Center, an outdoor amphitheater on the banks of the Ohio River here, and happily talked over one another, making their decision to return to the spotlight sound casual and carefree.
If the Riverbend audience is representative, the Chicks’ fans are primed for this comeback. The sold-out show cleared more than 20,000 tickets, one of their biggest crowds ever. Forty-something fans filled the more expensive seats under the roof, while packs of raucous college-age women in tank tops, jean shorts and boots packed the lawn area.

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