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Dixie Chicks

Top of the World Tour Live – 2003 (Open Wide/Monument/Sony)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks certainly enjoyed their most controversial year ever thanks to a few words uttered by lead singer Natalie Maines, and they also had one of the most successful tours of 2003 as well.

This 22-song live disc recorded somewhere during the U.S. part of the tour is clear indication that beyond the headlines, there was a tremendous amount of quality music going on.

The mix put Maines' vocals way out front. She has always been a good singer, and this indicates just how good she truly is. Maines possesses a tremendous amount of timbre and emotion in her voice, which come through time and again, especially on the sad hit, "Travelin' Soldier." Her voice is easy on the ears, but it's far from ear candy. Her mates, sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, help on backing vocals, but are more prominently displayed for their fine musicianship on such instruments as fiddle and banjo. The instrumentation favored by the Chicks is not straight ahead, lightweight country. As on "Home," they opt for a more traditional, sometimes bluegrass approach to their music. Like the best of musicians, they blaze their own trail. They could go pop on Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," but put their own mournful take on it. Maines wasn't a big talker during the concert, although she talked about the idea of free speech and voting and their important in introducing "Truth No. 2."Not everything is so heavy as the playful, yet ultra serious "Goodbye Earl" and closing "Sin Wagon" indicate.

This documentation of the Chicks demonstrates so clearly why they are among the top music acts out there today - they go their own way with a bunch of great songs and individual performances that made for an enduring night of music.