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The Dixie Chicks done it their way

Country Standard Time Editorial, September 2002

It's been a long time coming, but The Dixie Chicks finally released their third album, "Home."

That despite a legal brouhaha against Sony, their record company and personal ups and downs for Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire.

Credit is due to the Chicks for sticking to their guns for all these years. First off, they made it clear early on before most music fans had ever heard of them that they were serious about their music. The Chicks - with a slightly different lineup as Maines was not in the band at the time - released three albums on their own and toured around the country. Not exactly typical for country music acts of recent years.

And then when they signed to Columbia, they made it quite clear that they were going to keep their band name despite pressure from the label to change the name.

When it came to playing their own instruments, the Chicks knew what they wanted. Meaning you can hear Robison play banjo and Maguire display her skills on fiddle instead of studio folks. The Dixie Chicks, of course, broke out big time with 1998's "Wide Open Spaces" with hits like the title track, "You Were Mine" and "There's Your Trouble."

The following year, the band released "Fly" containing hits "Cowboy Take Me Away" and "Without You." They also headlined their first tour.

And then they took a break. Maines remarried and had a child. Sisters Robison and Maguire also married during this time with Robison due later this fall. But the real delay may have been a lawsuit with Columbia. In a "60 Minutes" interview, the Chicks claimed that despite selling millions of albums, they were not seeing any money for their efforts. It sounds hard to believe that a band could be so successful, yet reap so little as a result.

The Chicks were sitting on their music waiting to resolve the suit. They apparently talked with other labels with one rumor saying they inked with Capitol. The legal wranglings eventually ended earlier this year with the Chicks reportedly getting a $20 million advance and the formation of their own label, Open Wide. "Home" is being released by Open Wide/Monument/Columbia.

Of course, what gave the Chicks the ability to play hardball was their initial success. If not for "Wide Open Spaces" and "Fly," who would think that the country group would be able to pull off a heavily bluegrass-based album with lots of fiddle, banjo and harmonies and a real fine one at that?

The Dixie Chicks are a breath of fresh air for the entire music industry. Fortunately, the Dixie Chicks done it their way