My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Blockbuster Albums – ‘Fly’ by The Dixie Chicks

The album cover for Fly

This is a new feature that I’m trying, focusing on extremely big albums that had a big impact on country music — albums that were major for their respective artists or a breakthrough in some way. For this edition, I’ll be discussing Fly, by the Dixie Chicks!

So why am I calling this album “legendary”? Well, as of now it’s not. However, I really think it will be someday, so here’s why:

-It’s certified as a Diamond album (Shipped 10 million units) in the U.S.
-Has many defining songs for the group (“Cowboy Take Me Away”)
-Had 5 top-10 country singles (Two #1’s), 8 singles total
-Is an amazing album

Unfortunately, in the future it will probably not be remembered over the Chick’s next album, Home, which is a masterpiece, but this album deserves to be remembered years from now. Any album that sells diamond is big, even though it’s impossible to do now, but this album is so good that it merits that level of success. I was only 7 when this album was big, but I remember hearing all the songs on the radio because my parents were huge Chicks fans at the time. “Cowboy Take Me Away” was always playing in our house — it became ingrained in my mind.

I never heard of the album again (due to my parents shelving the Chicks after the incident; they still won’t listen to them) until 2 years ago when I saw the music video for “Goodbye Earl” on CMT one day. Then I rooted around for the CD, found it, and eagerly listened to it. I discovered a wonderful contemporary country album, done right — unlike most current albums. The album felt like an old friend that I hadn’t seen in a while, since I had heard it so many times.

This album manages to balance being commercial, country, artistic and successful, to great success in my opinion. The singing is top-notch,and the production is perfectly engaging, but not distracting — it still sounds good after 10 years!

Now, here’s a poll of all the singles from this album. I want you to pick your favorite:

My favorite was very difficult to pick, but I had to choose “Heartbreak Town”, although by tomorrow I’m sure I’ll pick something different. I didn’t understand this song for the longest time, but then I got it: “It’s talking about Nashville!” I thought to myself one day. After that “revelation” (I could have just looked it up online, but that takes all the fun out of it!), all the lyrics fell into place: the struggle to get noticed, the crushing failure, and the toll it takes on loved ones. I guess that explains why the single only went to #23. It’s very critical of the music industry. I think “Goodbye Earl” would be my second favorite, with “Without You” right behind it — it’s just a very strong album in general. Sadly, my favorite track off the album was never a single, namely the Patty Griffin-written “Let Him Fly”. I don’t think it would have been a good single anyway, but it’s a great slow song.

So what do you think? Does this album deserve to be legendary? What about the singles? Do you prefer the album cuts?

Also, any feedback on this feature would be greatly appreciated, especially with regard to future albums that could be used — please post any ideas here.

27 responses to “Blockbuster Albums – ‘Fly’ by The Dixie Chicks

  1. Occasional Hope March 14, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    It is a very good record, but overall I actually prefer Wide Open Spaces, which I think is more consistently good. I voted for Heartbreak Town too, because I think it is outstanding, but I like Without You and Cold Day In July almost as much. I guess I liked the Chicks best on bleak ballads. But for me there’s a fair bit of filler too, and one song I actively dislike (Sin Wagon). I don’t much like Ready To Run either.

    In terms of whether it will be classified legendary: I think probably not. If anything gets that label it will be Home based on critical reception, but their reputation in general is still too closely associated with the Incident and its aftermath and I think it will be some time (if ever) before their musical legacy can be viewed without paying attention to extra-musical matters.

  2. Michael March 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I had to vote for “Heartbreak Town.” “Without You” was a close second. I loved this CD too and the videos for the singles are still so memorable (“Ready to Run”). This was the first time I enjoyed hearing the Dixie Chicks do ballads. It really is a shame that so many radio programmers and listeners weren’t able to forgive “the incident” and didn”t play the singles from Taking the Long Way. It is such a great album! I think that will be the masterpiece they are remembered for. Although Home was great as well (loved “Long Time Gone”).

  3. Razor X March 14, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I think you’re correct that ultimately, the Dixie Chicks album that will be remembered the most will be Home, with its more acoustic sound and its emphasis on less-commercial sounding songs. Fly is a good album, but not as good as Home. Even though it sold well, I don’ t think Fly had a huge impact on the genre, the way other classic albums like Garth Brooks’ No Fences, Shania’s Come On Over, Randy Travis’ Storms of Life or Willie’s Red-Headed Stranger did.

    A case can be made for Wide Open Spaces — that was definitely a breakthrough album for the Chicks, but I think Fly is ultimately a transitional album for them, a bridge between Wide Open Spaces and Home.

    • Jake March 14, 2009 at 4:25 pm

      While I agree Wide Open Spaces did have an impact on country radio, I think Fly still had one up on their debut album. Fly had the (at the time) controversial “Goodbye Earl” single, 8 songs were released as singles and all made it in the Top 20, with “Heartbreak Town” just shy of making that at #23.

      I wouldn’t agree that Fly was a transitional album for the Chicks, I’d consider it a more evolved Wide Open Spaces as it maintanted the same country/pop sound that their debut had but with more of an edge.

      The most remembered Dixie Chicks album will probably be Home, but while I love Home’s acoustic country twang, I think The Long Way Around should be just as remembered as Home will be, because IMHO both are tied in terms of quality.

      • Razor X March 14, 2009 at 4:45 pm

        The only reason that eight singles were released from Fly is that the Chicks were involved in a contract dispute with Sony. Releasing more singles from the album was a way to try and keep them on the radio until the dispute could be resolved and a new album released.

        • J.R. Journey March 14, 2009 at 4:51 pm

          Maybe. But at the time, releasing 8 singles from one album wasn’t all that uncommon. Shania Twain released 8 singles from The Woman In Me and 12 from Come On Over.

        • Razor X March 14, 2009 at 4:58 pm

          Shania is an exception to the rule. Bear in mind that the single version of “God Bless The Child” is not the same version that is on the album. And Come On Over had 16 tracks on it, so it’s not surprising that there were more singles released from it.

    • Leeann Ward March 14, 2009 at 5:37 pm

      I think Fly is a transitional album too. I didn’t even come close to being a fan until it came out. I couldn’t stand their stuff from Wide Open Spaces during its time. I like some of it better now, but Fly is when I took them more seriously. My vote goes to “Heartbreak Town” too. I love Darrell Scott, the writer who also wrote “Long Time Gone.” Home is my favorite album of theirs.

      Chris, fascinating about your parents. Do they know you listen to The Chicks? Or, is that a deep, dark secret?:)

      • Chris March 14, 2009 at 9:41 pm

        My dad knows I like them, but he just complains if I put them on, so e backs off. I find it funny, actually.

        Also, any ideas for future albums for this feature? I have one in mind for the next one…

        • Jake March 15, 2009 at 5:24 pm

          I think Shania’s The Woman In Me and Come On Over should be done at some point as both albums had a big impact on country music.

          Garth Brooks debut and No Fences also had a big impact in the early 90’s, IMO.

          Faith Hill’s 1998 Faith and 1999 Breathe albums went 6 and 8 times platinum and together had 8 top 10 hits.

          I think Gretchen Wilson’s debut album Here For The Party would count, after her single “Redneck Woman” became a massive hit, it seemed like Gretchen ended the era of the divas in country for a while.

          Tim McGraws Not A Moment Too Soon and Live Like You Were Dying IMHO both had impacts on country radio.

          Others
          I’m Alright – Jo Dee Messina
          Why Not Me – The Judds
          Trisha Yearwood(debut), Hearts In Armor, Songbook(A Collection Of Hits) – Trisha Yearwood
          Come On, Come On – Mary Chapin Carpenter

        • Occasional Hope March 15, 2009 at 6:22 pm

          I don’t think I’d classify most of those as legendary. Garth’s debut and Hearts In Armor are great, and Why Not Me and Come On Come On very good, but even those I don’t think I’d classify as legendary. The others on your list, I wouldn’t even consider in that category, personally. Having an impact at the time isn’t quite the same thing, imho.

        • Leeann Ward March 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm

          So, Chris? Is the purpose of this feature to spotlight albums that you think are potentially be legendary?

        • J.R. Journey March 15, 2009 at 5:59 pm

          I thought it was for albums that are already legendary. I think this one is already.

          Jake’s list is excellent. I would add:

          Reba – For My Broken Heart
          The Judds – Wynonna & Naomi
          Randy Travis – Storms of Life
          Rodney Crowell – Diamonds and Dirt
          Rosanne Cash – King’s Record Shop
          Dwight Yoakam – Guitars, Cadillacs, etc.

        • Occasional Hope March 15, 2009 at 6:23 pm

          Now these are all potentially legendary.

        • Jake March 15, 2009 at 9:04 pm

          I was mostly trying to through some albums out there for ideas. But I still think many of these albums did have a impact. Come On, Come On went 4x platinum and all of the singles landed in the Top 20, while that isn’t all the criteria for legendary, I would say Carpenter’s success at the time made her a big artists and that was a pretty big album IMO. But I guess it’s just everyones opinion of what classifies as a “blockbuster”

        • Razor X March 15, 2009 at 9:41 pm

          I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m looking at it from the standpoint of albums that were important, landmark albums for country music as a whole, as opposed to albums that were successful or important for the artist that released them. From your list, Jake, I’d say that the Shania and Garth albums qualify while something like Come On, Come On was an important album for Mary Chapin Carpenter, but it wasn’t influential on the genre.

          Just my opinion. Obviously there are a number of ways we could go with this, and there’s no reason that albums that don’t quite qualify as landmarks/blockbusters/legendary can’t be discussed in some other context.

  4. Leeann Ward March 15, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    I guess I was confused because he said:

    “So why am I calling this album “legendary”? Well, as of now it’s not. However, I really think it will be someday.”

    I dunno if Fly is legendary, as much as I love it.

    • Leeann Ward March 15, 2009 at 6:19 pm

      Then again…maybe it is if “legendary” is different than “classic.”

      • J.R. Journey March 15, 2009 at 7:06 pm

        The original idea for this series was ‘blockbuster’ albums. Chris changed it. I think either/or works though.

        • Occasional Hope March 15, 2009 at 7:42 pm

          I think blockbuster gives more leeway regarding what’s included in future articles under the same banner, and I see Chris has changed it back.

          I’ve been thinking about it, and I would set the bar really high to call something legendary, because imo it’s about longterm impact – it has to be something that will be remembered widely as remarkable in 20/30, even 50 years, and very few albums fall into that category, even ones I may think deserve to be. A legendary album wouldn’t even necessarily be it’s artist’s best work.

          I would say the following would all have a good case:
          the original 1970s Will The Circle Be Unbroken
          Dolly Parton, My Tennessee Mountain Home
          Willie Nelson, Stardust and probably Red Headed Stranger
          Nelson, Jennings, Cash and Kristofferson, Highwayman
          Randy Travis, Storms Of Life
          Dwight Yoakam, Guitars, Cadillacs
          Emmylou Harris, Roses In the Snow
          Maybe George Jones, Still The Same Ole Me
          Johnny Cash, Live At San Quentin

        • Razor X March 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm

          I was going to suggest calling them landmark albums, but blockbuster works just as well. I like J.R.’s list and Lisa’s as well.

          Maybe I’m just showing my age, but I think to really be able to assess whether an album is a landmark or blockbuster album, we need to look at albums that are more than 10 years old. Remember that there’s a distinction between albums that are popular at the time of their release and those that truly have long-term impact. A few that I would add to the list:

          1. Coat of Many Colors — Dolly Parton
          2. Luxury Liner — Emmylou Harris
          3. Coal Miner’s Daughter — Loretta Lynn
          4. Trio — Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, & Emmylou Harris
          5. Don’t Close Your Eyes — Keith Whitley
          6. Killin’ Time — Clint Black

          And let’s not forget the album this blog is named after — Reba’s My Kind of Country.

          Greatest Hits collections shouldn’t be considered, since they are really only collections of singles.

          I’d also say a case can be made for any 1970s Emmylou Harris album and any Dolly Parton album released between 1971 and 1977. These two ladies were among the very first artists in country music to produce albums that were high quality from start to finish — as opposed to the usual practice of the day — having two hit singles and 8 to 10 “filler” tracks.

          I know this probably sounds like ancient history to the younger generation, but listen with an open mind and you may be pleasantly surprised. The music from this era is not as dated, for the most part, as you might think.

        • Leeann Ward March 15, 2009 at 8:55 pm

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to call the title of
          this feature into question. I was just a little confused as to the exact intent. I think “blockbuster” or “landmark” albums is less confusing though. While I would agree with the ten year mark for “legendary”, I don’t know that such an assignment is necessary for “blockbuster.”

        • Chris March 16, 2009 at 5:26 am

          I had tried to find the original e-mails when JR and I were discussing the idea for this feature, and I knew there was a different name, but I couldn’t remember it at the time of writing… I was also in an airport all day yesterday, trying to get home from Florida, so I’ve been to busy to be around much… Anyway, I like blockbuster way more than legendary- it just fits better in every way.

          Leeann, I think the point was to be able to discuss the importance of the given album and the quality of the singles that came from it- to discuss why it’s such an important album. I’m still working on the main point of it honestly… That’s why I asked for any suggestions to make it better.

          Also we may have to have other editors do this feature than me because I just don’t have any of those big albums- I’m too young I guess, but we’ll see how it develops in the future.

  5. Paul W Dennis March 15, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Their best album remains THANK HEAVENS FOR DALE EVANS, but this was a pretty good album, marred only by the infantile “Goodbye Earl”

  6. Andrew September 26, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I only just discovered this blog, great stuff and keep it up!
    as for me, without you is my favourite song on this album. whenever i look at the track list at the back of the album, i see the title and instantly, i put it in the cd player and listen specifically to that one song. it has an incredible sound to it! And the video is very memorable for the vulnerable side it shows of the chicks. it’s done in an incredibly tasteful way and is just beautiful to watch.

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