I imagine that it is a bit like announcing that one has the heartbreak of psoriasis, or appearing in an advertisement for Cialis, but I am one of the 800,000 -- that is, the 800,000 Americans who purchased the Dixie Chicks latest album Taking the Long Way
within the first 2 weeks of its release. (Globally, within 4 weeks of release, the number of folks who had joined that group had ballooned to more than a million; but in this case, there is no moral strength in numbers).
I mention this little secret out loud because I wanted to share my view about the apparent disconnect between the Dixie Chick's stratospheric album sales on the one hand, and the "reshuffling" (as the Chicks' management euphemistically refers to it) of summer concert dates in the Midwest and Southern states, due to lagging ticket sales. Perhaps not surprisingly, the calendar dates that have been reshuffled out of the South and Midwest have been claimed by smaller venues on the Coasts -- and yes, in Canada.
Memo to Natalie, Martie and Emily: I am your demographic. I am a huge country music fan, with disposable income, and not enough common sense to know that $35 for a silk screen T-shirt is frivolous waste of hard-earned money. Further, I have copies of your other works and believe that your earlier Grammy and CMA honors were very well deserved. All of this should make me a pathetically easy sell for whatever you might choose to market -- but, for reasons you might not suspect, I am not now.
In many ways, Taking the Long Way
is the best of the Chicks musical triumphs to date, and no doubt the most melodically interesting and intricate of any of their works. And that is saying a lot. Yet this album is also maddeningly self-referential, to the point of being abusive to the ordinary fan. Weaved into song after song are not-so veiled references to "struggles" that followed lead singer Natalie Maine's critique of President Bush in London in 2003, the turning of Red State country music fans, and the Atlas-like burdens of being rich and famous. Please. For the sake of the music, if not the lagging T-shirt sales, get over yourself.
In what is otherwise the best track of the album, Natalie, tight-fisted, declares:
Stepping out, everyone can see my face
All the things I can't erase from my life
And that is true: Everybody knows. But nobody cares. And even fewer people want to spend an evening out reliving these disputes.
Sing about something else and I will scrap with the Scalpers for a seat in the front row.