My Kind of Country

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

Spotlight Artist: Dixie Chicks

It is hard to believe but 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Dixie Chicks. Originally comprised of Laura Lynch, Robin Lynn Macy and sisters Martie Erwin and Emily Erwin, the Chicks (named after a Little Feat song) started off as a more roots-oriented band than is currently the case (similarly Fleetwood Mac started off as a blues-rock band and devolved into a pop act after personnel changes).

The group initially came together in 1989 when Martie Erwin and Robin Lynn Macy both performed at the Walnut Valley Music Festival, a long-running bluegrass event in Winfield, Kansas. From there the group coalesced with western singer Laura Lynch and Emily Erwin joining the group. The group played bluegrass festivals and busked for tips around the Dallas area. The group adopted the name Dixie Chicks from the song “Dixie Chicken” by the much-revered band Little Feat.

The group created enough of a stir to land a recording contract with the independent label Crystal Clear Sound and issued their debut disc Thank Heavens For Dale Evans in December of 1990. The album, named for legendary western actress Dale Evans, was essentially a straight-ahead bluegrass album, with western themes to some of the numbers. The album sold reasonably well for an independent label album and was available wherever the Texas-based Sound Warehouse chain had locations.

In an attempt to expand their commercial viability the group gravitated to a more commercially viable sound with their second album Little Ol’ Cowgirl released in 1992. While retaining basic bluegrass instrumentation, the album tended more toward ‘Newgrass’ than traditional bluegrass with covers of recent pop-country hits such as “Pat The Point of Rescue” and “Two of A Kind”. At this point, Robin Lynn Macy left the group, preferring to remain with her more roots-oriented bluegrass sounds.

The third album Shouldn’t A Told You That, released in 1993, found the group drifting further toward pop country. The album is competently performed but without Robin Lynn Macy, the group lacked an outstanding lead vocalist.

The group continued performing but without a record deal, although during the period after Macy’s departure the group considered its options. Steel guitar virtuoso Lloyd Maines (who had played on the first two albums) introduced the remaining Chicks to a demo recording from his daughter, Natalie.

Maines thought his daughter would be a good match to replace the departed Macy, and the Erwin sisters agreed, adding Natalie and discarding Laura Lynch (there are varying stories on how friendly a move this was) and changed the style and focus of the group’s sound. Eventually, the new sound of the Chicks came to the attention of Sony Music Entertainment.

The rest is history as the trio found an unprecedented level of success which sustained until an unwise (and unnecessary) public relations error led to a decade of near-exile.

We won’t get into that, but will concentrate on their music for that, after all, should be the focus for our April Spotlight artists

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2 responses to “Spotlight Artist: Dixie Chicks

  1. Paul W Dennis April 4, 2019 at 11:37 am

    One thing should be clarified – after Robin Lynn Macy left, Laura Lynch, a very good singer, was the lead vocalist. Unfortunately she suffered from some sort of hearing loss that did not affect her much in the recording studio, but very much affected her ability to perform on stage

    There is a website giving the entire early history of the group, which apparently the current Chicks or Sony Music have attempted to suppress, with varying degrees of success

    Lynch wound up marrying a very wealthy man after leaving the group
    Robin Lynn Macy remained involved regionally in roots music and returned to teaching high school math

    http://www.dixie-chicks.com/

  2. Michael A. April 4, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    I’m tickled pink. For having such a relatively small output (I only own the four most recent studio albums, the two live releases and most or all of their contributions to various artist compilations), I am surprised at how much of a fan I am. They are one of my Top 5 favorite acts. I have also not really explored Natalie Maines’ solo effort or the Court Yard Hounds’ releases. I’m hoping for new DCX music in 2019 and that it’s fantastic.

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