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The Story of Country Sensation Dixie Chicks

May 13, 2008
There's old country. There's new country. Then there are the Dixie Chicks.

Natalie Maines, Martie Seidel and Emily Robison have taken the Texas-bred sound of a fiddle, banjo, dobro and crystal-clear vocal harmonies into whole new territory. They are the rare act that comes along a few times in a generation that is destined to shake things up, rewrite the rules and become the new musical trendsetters.

The public has certainly noticed. The Dixie Chicks' first Monument album Wide Open Spaces has become the biggest selling album ever by a country duo or group - racking up some 6 million sales by the time their second album, Fly, was completed. The tremendous sales only demonstrates that while the Dixie Chicks have established themselves as a true country music act, they have also won over audiences outside the country genre. In a music field routinely known for selling to the conservative 30 and over crowd, more than 60% of the Dixie Chicks sales have been to consumers under the age of 25. Their concert audience is as likely to be comprised of entire rows of young women in their early teens and twenties as it is to include middle age couples and entire families complete with pre-teen girls dressed like their musical idols and singing every Dixie Chicks' song word for word.

The press has certainly noticed. Publications from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and People to Harper's Bazaar, In Style, Seventeen and TV Guide have documented how the Dixie Chicks are bending the music world to their will and making country music more 'hip' than ever. With the wrap-up of 1998, numerous national publications named them the "Breakout Act of the Year" and recognized Wide Open Spaces as one of the "Best Of" albums of the year. USA Today credited the Chicks with single-handedly returning the banjo to country radio and Rolling Stone summed it up when they called them "the badass queenpins of country." At a time when much of the press on country music has lamented the 'sameness' of the sound and the artists, no less than the Los Angeles Times conceded that "the Dixie Chicks are the perfect antidote."

The music industry has certainly noticed. The Dixie Chicks' fellow musicians and industry peers, in particular, have overwhelmingly acknowledged their contribution. In a year's time, they have been honored with two Grammy Awards (Best Country Album and Best Country Vocal Performance Duo/Group), two Country Music Association Awards (Group of the Year and the Horizon Award), plus three Academy of Country Music Awards (including Album of the Year), one American Music Award and two TNN Music Awards. On Nashville's Music Row, where the unspoken business strategy often seems to be "if we can make it work once, we can beat it to death," the music industry has obviously been taking notes. It's likely not a coincidence that almost every record label in Nashville has signed a female trio since the Dixie Chicks exploded on to the scene. But clearly what makes this act work is not just that they are a female trio. The difference is this: There simply is no other act in any musical format that sounds like the Dixie Chicks
About the Author
E Walker is the founder of Planet of Rock. Listen to country guitar backing tracks and jam with a real country band. Planet of Rock is one of the best country guitar sites offering professional country backing tracks.
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