Taking the Long Way

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The first two tracks on the Chicks’ first studio album in four years (“The Long Way Around” and “Easy Silence”) circle warily around the subject of the vitriolic response lead singer Natalie Maines received when she criticized President George W. Bush days before the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003. Thus primed, the third song pounces: “Not Ready to Make Nice” lays into the group’s detractors mercilessly, throwing every censorious denunciation back as righteous fury.

That matter attended to, Taking the Long Way can reveal its true subjects, country music staples all: the power of love, the value of family and the pain of romantic regret. Among the Chicks’ co-writers on these 14 songs are some of pop’s finest melodists (including Sheryl Crow, Dan Wilson, Neil Finn and Gary Louris), so it’s natural that Long Way teems with shimmering melodies. Producer Rick Rubin provides elegant settings that spotlight the mandolin, fiddle and banjo trimmings, as well as the Chicks’ increasingly elaborate and lovely harmonies. Nothing controversial about that.

—Chris Neal

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