When the Dixie Chicks announced that their first tour in a decade would be making a stop at the Minnesota State Fair, I found myself flooded with emotional nostalgia — and I couldn’t figure out why. At least, not at first.
Though I don’t listen to country music much anymore, I did in the ’90s and early aughts — a lot.
Country music has long been dominated by the boys, but a few women stand out from that era: Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, all bolstered by the Loretta Lynns and Tammy Wynettes who came before them.
But for a young girl living in small towns in North Dakota and then Minnesota, the Dixie Chicks were something else entirely.
They were brash and funny, and their style sometimes fit more with the pop artists of the day than their country brethren; Their “Fly” album featured photos of the trio in bright colors, platform sandals and vocalist Natalie Maines with a bleach blonde pixie haircut. They did not conform, yet their music was pure bluegrass and banjo.
They were one of my favorite acts at that time — my younger sisters and I had every album, we knew all the words and even made up skits for the stories in the songs (the one we acted out for “Goodbye Earl” still makes my mother shudder).
I had taken up the violin around that time and was inspired by the fact that they all played their own instruments — multiple instruments, in fact. The fiddle theme in “Ready to Run” was one of the first nonclassical bits of music I taught myself to play.
I was confused and even devastated when country radio — and many fans — boycotted the Dixie Chicks in March 2003 after Maines’ statements about the Iraq war and President George W. Bush while playing a show in London.
I have always been surrounded by strong female role models — grandmothers, aunts, my mom — who aren’t shy about speaking their minds. So it was strange to me, at the very impressionable age of 15, that one woman expressing her opinion, agree with her or not, brought on so much outrage.
I learned years later that Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard had both offered their own antiwar statements and songs around that time, the latter even coming to the Dixie Chicks’ defense, but neither of them received near the level of backlash.
Even more strange is that one person’s opinion of the president would hardly register a blip in the newscycle nowadays. How times have changed.
And yet, with the song “Not Ready to Make Nice,” they created the country girl equivalent of Jay-Z brushing the dirt off his shoulder. I was giddy watching them fight back.
That album, “Taking the Long Way,” went multiple times platinum and won a few Grammys.
So when those tickets for their Minnesota State Fair Grandstand show went on sale, my sisters and I frantically bought tickets and went on a reminiscing rampage of old-school Dixie Chicks classics.
And then I figured out why I was flooded with nostalgia — their songs bring me back to a place and time when I was still figuring out the kind of woman I wanted to be. And it turns out, I became a creative, sometimes-loud-and-opinionated woman who still swoons over a good mandolin riff. Not too far off, I’d say.
CJ Sinner • 612-673-4387
ABOUT 10,000 Takes: 10,000 Takes features first-person essays about life in the North Star State. Read more at startribune.com/10000takes.