Written by Ramie Payne. 21 October 2014.
Released in August of 2002, just one year after the attacks on September 11, 2001 and a few short months after the United States declared war on Al Qaida, Home is the sixth studio album by the Dixie Chicks. The album includes songs such as “Travelin’ Soldier,” “Long Time Gone,” and a remake of Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” which are still loved by country music fans today.
The album was originally released with the intent of being an “idiosyncratic side project,” as described by Chis Willman in his book Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music (21). Many people were not expecting much from this album because of the incredible success of the band’s previous two albums, Fly and Wide Open Spaces, but they were pleasantly surprised by the catchy, bluegrass feel of Home. (Willman, 21). Heavily influenced by historical events and characteristics of the music industry at the time, the album reflects how the girls reacted to the world around them and how they were inspired to go back to their deep country roots.
The attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent events had a huge influence on the topics of the songs in Home. The most apparent example of this is the song “Travelin’ Soldier,” a song that describes a young girl’s secret love with a soldier fighting in Vietnam (Willman, 24). The song describes their love and how the girl is “never more to be alone when the letter said a soldier’s coming home.” Maines claims that the song is neither pro-war nor anti-war, but many listeners took it as supportive of the military (24). Although it may not be considered either pro-war or anti-war, the song is definitely influenced by the historical events surrounding the time.
Another example of how historical timing influenced this album is the success of the soundtrack from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou (Erlewine, 1). This soundtrack is full of bluegrass songs, something many people had not heard in a very long time. The soundtrack did surprisingly well and brought the grassroots sound back to the music industry, giving the girls the green light to include these sounds in their album. The Dixie Chicks had veered away from the “traditional” country sound in their pop-influenced albums Fly and Wide Open Spaces.
In comparison, Home has a stronger rural feel with its higher inclusion of the fiddle and banjo and lack of drums along with their references to rural living and American patriotism, as discussed previously. The Song “Lil’ Jack Slade,” named after Maine’s son, is purely instrumental and features the fiddle and banjo. Another song influenced by the grassroots feel is “Long Time Gone.” The song opens with banjo and describes how country music has lost the rustic feel, referencing important country artists, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams, all of whom are considered to have the “true” country sound. The song states, “Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard/ They’ve got money but they don’t have Cash/ They got Junior but they don’t have Hank.”
The last event that affected the album was the lawsuit the girls filed against Sony on August 29, 2001. The girls sued Sony for fraud, claiming that they had been defrauded four million dollars in profits from their albums (Mitchells, 32). At the same time, the girls also appeared before California legislators to discuss a statute that bound them and other artists to long-term contracts (32). The Dixie Chicks won their case against Sony, allowing them more freedom to record songs the way they wished to.
The girls spent more time at their homes in Texas, which had obvious effects on their new album and its title. Songs on this track included more references to home and had an added feel of nostalgia. For example, the title track “A Home” describes the wish to find a real home (Willman, 32). Furthermore, the song “Long Time Gone” describes the disappearing way of life the girls knew growing up. The song references “daddy [sitting] on the front porch swinging” and “momma still [cooking] too much for supper.” This event possibly had the most influence on the album because of the freedom it gave the band. The girls may not have allowed the other events to influence their music as much as they had or created the music they did had they not had freedom to create the music they wanted to.
This album was geared for the fans the Dixie Chicks already had along with those who still loved the rural feel of old country. Many of the songs had a similar feel and sound to their old music, but they were also heavily influenced by the rise in popularity of the grassroots sound, allowing them to reach a larger audience. The album was received well by many until an event commonly referred to as “the incident.” On March 10, 2003, Maines went before an audience at a London concert and stated “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is a Texan” (Mitchells, 35).
This one simple statement, made overseas, cost the girls a huge portion of their audience as people began questioning the loyalty of the band to their country (35). Their album sales dropped in response because people refused to listen to their music and radio stations boycotted their songs (35). Along with this event, the girls’ clash with Sony also caused the Dixie Chicks to lose members of their audience. Many people were not used to women in the country music industry fighting for what they believed in AND questioning the actions of the President of the United States. The girls were already on the bad-sides of many of their fans and those in the music industry after their lawsuit with Sony and the “incident” was the last straw for them.
Although the album, Home, is not as successful as their other albums, it still holds a special place in many peoples’ lives because of its subjects and sound. The album includes more references to country living and war because of the loss of rural America and the possibility of war in the United States at the time. The album also goes back to a more grassroots feel because of the rise in popularity of bluegrass music that had been lost for many years. Timing heavily influenced this album, giving it a new audience, speaker, topics, and sound that had not been present before.
- “Long Time Gone” (D. Scott)
- “Landslide” (S. Nicks) – 3:50
- “Travelin’ Soldier” (B. Robison)
- “Truth No. 2” (P. Griffin)
- “White Trash Wedding” (M. Maguire, N. Maines, E. Robison)
- “A Home” (M. Sharp, R. Sharp)
- “More Love” (G. Nicholson, T. O’Brien)
- “I Believe in Love” (M. Maguire, N. Maines, M. Stuart)
- “Tortured, Tangled Hearts” (M. Maguire, N. Maines, M. Stuart)
- “Lil’ Jack Slade” (T. Hendrix, M. Maguire, L. Maines, E. Robison)
- “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” (R. Foster)
- “Top of the World” (P. Griffin)
Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Home Review. AllMusic, n.d. Web.
Mitchells, Brett. Contemporary Musicians and Their Music: Dixie Chicks. New York: Rosen Publish Group, 2009. Ebook.
Willman, Chris. Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music. New York: The New Press, 2005. Ebook.