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Given that the Dixie Chicks' major-label debut, last year's "Wide Open Spaces," is the biggest-selling recording ever by a country duo or group (more than 5 million copies), country fans had every right to be nervous when they heard that the Chicks had redone the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love" for the "Runaway Bride" soundtrack and that the female trio was playing a few Lilith Fair dates this summer.
But no, the Chicks haven't sold their country soul and gone pop.
The instrumental country trademarks (from fiddle to dobro) still sparkle in the trio's follow-up (due in stores Tuesday), a work that suffers from a few generic tunes but that generally shows advances in both execution (the arrangements and Natalie Maines' vocals are both more authoritative) and in material.
The last album's undercurrent of female empowerment has been extended this time around with songs that look at standing up for your rights in various ways. The added good news is that the spirited Chicks--who also include Martie Seidel and Emily Robison--wrote or co-wrote several of the songs, including the tender, reflective "Don't Waste Your Heart" and the kick-up-your-heels "Sin Wagon."
But the most affecting moment may well be the heartfelt rendition of Patty Griffin's "Let Him Fly," the song that gives the album its title and whose philosophy--go by your head, not just your heart in relationships--is at the heart of the group's outlook. Another solid outing. *
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.