Home (out Aug. 27), the first record under the new deal, contains the bluegrass-y tracks the Chicks wrote on their sabbatical. The familiar story line no record-company supervision equals more artistic freedom turns out to be true and a mixed blessing. The first single, Long Time Gone, is a floorboard stomper about the passage of time; White Trash Wedding ("I shouldn't be wearing white, and you can't afford no ring") is a two-minute humor hurricane, and the two Patty Griffin-penned songs (Truth No. 2 and Top of the World) show the Chicks can do melancholy credibly. But Home has a little too much melancholy. The Chicks say they were glad not to have record executives pushing them to tailor their songs to the short attention spans and upbeat expectations of radio listeners, but everyone needs a little editing. Maines makes no apologies. "This album's more mature, and I think we might lose some fans because of it. But this is where we are right now."
The Dixie Chicks will sing happy songs again, and they're even promising to make a rock record somewhere down the road. Whatever they do, they have decided to make the music they want to and trust that the market will follow. Hardly the act of three wusses.