Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dixies Chicks Leave Kansas (Texas)

The ruddy temper, the hammer
Of red and blue, the hard sound——
Steel against intimation——the sharp flash,
The vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X.
--Wallace Stevens

Members of my family have lived in Texas before, and I'm glad to say I've visited the great state a few times...I really enjoyed Dallas - Ft. Worth and the fact that I could step outside the door on Boxing Day and be overwhelmed with humidity, rivalled only by Japan in mid-summer.

Texas, of course, as a long history of raising young'uns of musical talent through constant touring in the oprys of small town Texas. If you've heard of the Grand Ol' Opry, than you know the general idea. Singers from all over get up on stage and sing in front of the audience, playing standard established country tunes from the great songbook of the genre with the help of the house band. It perpetuates the unbending nature of the genre having been mired in stagnation since its inception. Purists of any musical genre, (and in country Nashville is still the conformist vortex of the south) will assault any deviation from the norm and immediately seek its demise (a la the full scale assault on Shania Twain by industry insiders), and through the opry system, homogenation of country's sound is perpetuated.... (The Sex Pistols avoided much of the industrial northern US in its ill-fated North American tour to specifically attack middle America's country culture)...It is especially strange in Dalls that this would be so, since two radically different musical subcultures exist (in very close proximity) to the west (outside Ft. Worth) and south (South Dallas)- the Mexican and black music scenes.

Country and pop, it has recently been found, are the musical tastes of the uncomplicated and unsophisticated. With bluntness, a lack of nuance and a predictable and boring nature, country fits the bill as the dullest of all musical genres.

Enter the Dixie Chicks....circa 2003...Natalie Maines, in London of all places, proclaimed:
"Just so you know," she told the packed house, "we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas".

Instead of through a sly song about the Lilliputians tying down Bush's Gulliver as Radiohead did, Maines had to explicitly say with the least amount of artistic expression that Bush did indeed suck.

Well, the Dixie Chicks fans, and of course Texas did not like this at all, and told the D-Chicks just that in their own blunt way..
More gravely, Maines, who is the daughter of the steel guitar legend Lloyd Maines, reported serial death threats.

As the Chicks move farther from their base on their new album, which pointedly attacks Bush and the Chicks' detractors, they will attempt to broaden their base with a move to political rock with a country tinge...For Shania, she appealed to a broader audience with sex appeal and pop sensibility, and at least some good pop song writing. For the Chicks (minus Maines) sex appeal is no problem, but attempting to break a lyrical and cultural divide with a singer whose stage presence is reminiscent of every obnoxious drunk hick girl in small town North America will be a tough sell.

While Shania excelled at being smooth and personable in order to bridge the musical genre gap, the Chicks are more like the trolls that live under that bridge.

No comments: