STILL WHISTLING DIXIE

Even laying low, the Dixie Chicks are still flying high

The Dixie Chicks don't have to make a new album or go on tour to make news.

Marriages, babies, lawsuits - oh, and a couple of new songs, too - are keeping them in the public eye. They've even got an eighth hit from their two-year-old, nine-times-platinum Fly album, "Some Days You Gotta Dance."

And they're not finished yet.

The Chicks are quietly working on new music - though record-label tangles make it anyone's guess as to when we'll actually hear it. And they'll be playing at the Houston Rodeo next month, their first real concert appearance since December 2000.

What have they been doing with their time out of the spotlight? Well, first and foremost, there have been big happenings at home.

Chick Martie Seidel became Martie Maguire in August when she married Irish love Gareth Maguire in Hawaii. The couple is still planning a traditional Irish ceremony this summer. "It was so last-minute that so many special people were not there to share it with us," explains Martie, "but we just couldn't wait!"

For those keeping score, that means all three Chicks are now hitched. Martie's sister and bandmate Emily is married to alternative-country heartthrob Charlie Robison, while lead vocalist Natalie Maines is wed to actor Adrian Pasdar. Natalie and Adrian are busy raising their son, Jackson Slade, who will reach his first birthday in March.

Still, the Chicks have been out and about lately. First they appeared at the America: A Tribute To Heroes telethon following the Sept. 11 attacks, playing a new song, "I Believe In Love," written with Marty Stuart.

The girls also posted an a cappella version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on their website for computer download with a link asking for Red Cross donations. And after U.S. military action was underway in Afghanistan, the Chicks premiered their version of the timely "Travelin' Soldier" - written by Emily's brother-in-law, Bruce Robison - at the 2001 CMA Awards telecast.

But while fans have been able to hear new songs on special occasions such as these, plans for the next Chicks album are in limbo. That's because the Chicks are embroiled in a fierce legal battle with their record label, Sony, which they accuse of ripping them off for millions of dollars. Sony has dismissed the trio's lawsuit as a "sham."

The Chicks say it's not about money - in fact, they were the only country performers on the business-minded Forbes magazine's recent list of the richest celebrities - but about "people keeping their word." The women add that constantly keeping one eye on Sony's business practices "threatened to take us away from doing what we love: making music."

Fans are hoping they'll soon be able to get back to doing just that.

- Chris Neal

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