Music

MEA CULPA!

by

Dixie Chicks

Wide Open Spaces

Monument

The Kinleys

Just Between You and Me

Epic


How ’bout them Dixie Chicks: named in honor of country-honk artistes Little Feat, starring actual sisters who play actual instruments so good they used to win prizes at actual bluegrass festivals. They even made an indie album called Thank Heavens for Dale Evans. From there to copping the CMA’s Horizon (for newcomers) and Vocal Act of the Year awards in a single swoop—who woulda thunk it?

Well, almost anyone who didn’t fall for the hokey-doke. Somewhere between pickin’ and winnin’, the sisters made a deal with the devil or Sony, lost two original cowgal-pals, and found one lead-singing producer’s daughter. On the cover of crossover smash Wide Open Spaces, the new trio offers a pretty straightforward semiotic: More! Blonder! Smarter! Kiss my ass Deana Carter!

Maybe the only thing bigger than their spacious sound is the problem everyone has with Lego stardom. The band’s online bio uses the phrase “real deal” six times. A fan site yearns plaintively for the band’s authentic cowgirl days; another mirrors the same anxiety, listing the top 10 reasons Dixie Chicks are better than Spice Girls (“5. Spices are manufactured, but Chicks are natural”).

The only relevant reason goes unlisted: More Good Songs (the chart-crushing title track runs fourth at best). Whoever assembled the disc knows exactly what our demographic wants: close harmony (which is, after all, the sound of family values), but with the sexy individuality of wild girls. Impossible? Hah—what Nashville knows about surgical strikes, U.S. pilots only dream of. What makes the Dixie Chicks irresistible is exactly how well-designed they are: the cyborg children of the Judds and Mindy McCready’s navel ring.

But if the Chicks are cyborgs, the Kinleys are terminators: blonder, faster, and they’re twins! Their debut Just Between You and Me is the country album of the year, from the dreamy-smoove title track clear through to boogie-down “Dance in the Boat.” The closer offers an economic critique of small-town bad boys and then, miracle of miracles, comes out decisively pro sex—not as a down payment on a marriage license but as a fun way to raise hell. This does not happen in Nashville—not with women singing.

Nonetheless it would be obscene to sell this record as subversive: Just Between You and Me is designed by the same Sony Nashville gang cashing Dixie Checks. What sets it apart is the singing: whichever Kinley leads has a positively deluxe voice, glowing with money-colored light and widened out with a bluesy swell the Chicks’ precision harmonies renounce. It’s all over the note, even when whispering the mournful yeahs that punctuate “Talk to Me” or moaning the chorus of the best song, which begins “He makes me feel oooh….” An answer record to Master P? Like the No Limit family, the Kinley twins suggest infinite reproducibility, and they are ’bout it ’bout it.

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