I really kind of miss the Dixie Chicks. I loved their brassy attitude and fun country songs. Martie was always my favorite, but I’m always partial to a good fiddle. Natalie Maines released a solo album this year that I felt was very painful to listen to. Courtyard Hounds, the group made up by Martie and Emily, is kind of generic and blah, very Sheryl Crow-ish and lacking all the panache that Natalie brought to the group. All because Natalie Maines temporarily forgot who their base was and made a flippant comment about George Bush. The best thing to come out of that was Taking The Long Way, which I think is the most accomplished of all of their albums.
Still, there’s something fun and breezy about their debut album Wide Open Spaces. It really is perfect 90s country. I don’t even remember how we discovered them, but I think it was Heidi that did it. We were listening to a lot of country that summer for some reason. We’d been married just under a year and were living in Iowa City thinking we knew what broke was. We were both working part time and going to school full time and, as you can imagine, it was a trying time financially for us. Heidi kept talking about how the Dixie Chicks were going to be at the Iowa State Fair that year and how she would love to go. I wasn’t convinced because I knew that tickets would probably be pricey (I was guessing – I’d never even been to a concert at the State Fair so I really had no idea how much Grandstand tickets cost.) As it turns out, the Dixie Chicks, who had just had their breakout hit “I Can Love You Better” and were climbing the charts with “There’s Your Trouble” were playing the MILLER FREE STAGE at the Iowa State Fair. You heard that right, it was free. Well, except for the gas to get to Des Moines and the price of admission to the fair. We made a day of it and ended up sitting at the Miller Free Stage for a damn long time to get a seat in the general admission tent that covered the stage.
By the time the show was about to start, people were crammed in under that tent and spread out around it. Clearly, the Chicks had no business playing the free stage, but I suspect that they were booked there before they hit the big time and were just honoring their commitment. They put on an excellent show and I think it was probably the closest I’ve ever been at a concert until last fall’s MDNA Tour. We ended up seeing them again at the Taste of Cedar Rapids thing later that fall – again, for free. But the next year, they were in the Grandstand at the State Fair.