If these April 15 albums (150-gram 12-inch vinyl) had arrived in late March, this column might have been ready for Record Store Day, but it has taken awhile to listen to them.
Only "Home" has been previously available on vinyl, but now all of the first four are available with full-size art on the eve of their DCX MMXVI world tour. The quality vinyl makes them pricey, but devotees of that format will want to at least get their favorite album or two.
The Dixie Chicks are one of the best country-pop outfits ever, blending sex appeal, hooks and musicianship.
'Wide Open Spaces,' Dixie Chicks (Columbia/Legacy, HHHH 1/2)
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This 1998 album marked the emergence of the Chicks as a trio: sisters Emily Robison (banjo/dobro) and Martie Maguire (fiddle/mandolin) plus new lead vocalist Natalie Maines. The sisters were previously a bluegrass quartet with other players. Three country No. 1 singles ("There's Your Trouble," the title song and "You Were Mine") helped the album's popularity and heralded crossover success. I also dig the Chicks' version of Bonnie Raitt's "Give It Up Or Let Me Go."
What a sterling debut!
'Fly,' Dixie Chicks (Columbia/Legacy, HHHHH)
Things got even bigger with this 1999 release with the Best Country Album Grammy and the movie-themed single "Ready To Run" along with other classic tunes like "Cowboy Take Me Away."
This is the girls' best overall record, with other greats such as "Ready To Run," "Goodbye Earl," "Sin Wagon" and "Without You."
Some found "Fly" too poppy, but it's the best of the bunch for this reviewer.
'Home,' Dixie Chicks (Columbia/Legacy, HHHH 1/2)
This 2002 release saw the Chicks shedding a bit of pop influence for a more rootsy sound while also winning the Best Country Album Grammy and featuring a Top 10 cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," which is far from the best tune here. Other cool cuts are the wonderful "Long Time Gone," "Travelin' Soldier" and "White Trash Wedding."
'Taking The Long Way,' Dixie Chicks (Columbia/Legacy, HHHH 1/2)
This 2006 Rick Rubin-produced release yielded Grammys for Song of the Year ("Not Ready To Make Nice"), Record of The Year (ditto) and Album of The Year. After the tour to promote this winner, the Chicks began a long hiatus. My other favorites are "The Long Way Round," "Lubbock Or Leave It," "Bitter End" and "Everybody Knows."
The Dixie Chicks made a lot of wonderful music in a comparatively short time; so I hope that they will decide to stick together after hitting the big-time touring circuit.
Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.