Natalie Maines, Mother

Stephen M. Deusner

By Stephen M. Deusner

on 05.07.13 in Reviews


Natalie Maines
A Dixie Chick returns, scarred but smarter

Still scarred from the backlash she endured for dissing George Bush 10 years ago, Natalie Maines has jettisoned any trace of the twang that survived the Dixie Chicks’ last album, Taking the Long Way, and has made her first real rock ‘n’ roll record. Mother is not merely a shift in musical direction or a crossover attempt; instead, it’s the sound of a woman fighting defiantly to redefine herself with a harder, steelier sound. Fortunately, Maines’s commanding voice remains intact. She nimbly navigates the slow build from soft melody to full gospel finale on “Free Life,” while “Trained” binds a torrid sex metaphor to a rowdy blues-rock groove courtesy of co-producer Ben Harper. Her cover of “Lover Your Should Have come Over” may be too faithful to Jeff Buckley’s original to transcend karaoke, but Maines picks up some intriguing vocal tricks — especially a new way to treat vowels — and applies them throughout Mother. Best of all is the Jayhawks’ “I’d Run Away,” which shows the Dixie Chick at her most unguarded. Despite the tough rock exterior she constructs, the song reveals a bruised self-doubt that haunts the album. Maines might love to run away, but she knows she has to stay and keep fighting.