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Thanks Dixie Chicks, Shania, for different reasons, they shed light on the state of country

Country Standard Time Editorial, October 1998

The Dixie Chicks certainly come across as a fun, lively band both on the silver platter and live. They have been one of the few genuine bright spots in country music over the past few years where the bar has been lowered, and few worthy acts are putting out quality music.

The Chicks particularly deserve praise for "Goodbye Earl," yet another hit from their second major label album, "Fly." The song is about a wife beaten by her husband so badly she ends up in the hospital. Together with her longstanding girlfriend, they hatch a plot to do away with Earl, who is never missed again. The Chicks wanted to release the song as a single, but Sony held back from doing so perhaps fearful of the content. Fortunately, the song now is a single with a playful video with Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue fame as Earl.

While the video depicts the story in a light-hearted way (though not totally, especially given the scene of the beaten wife in the hospital), give credit to the Chicks for emphasizing the issue of domestic abuse, a point underscored by the kudos given the Chicks from domestic abuse groups. The theme hasn't received that much attention in the country community since Martina McBride's excellent career song, "Independence Day" and a very serious video to go along with it.

Few country artists seem willing to tackle societal issues. Alan Jackson has in the populist-oriented "Little Man" and George Jones addressed her personal problems last year in "Choices," but most are content to play it safe.

The Chicks have been willing to push the envelope in an era where few are willing to do so. They say they will keep it country musically. Let's also hope they don't lose sight of the potential to be a force for promoting difficult issues in the future.