Monday, April 29, 2013

Natalie Maines And Sheryl Crow Let The Music Play On

Talented, smart, authentic,
and got in big trouble for it.
I understand that Natalie Maines' recent solo performances have been astounding, even described by one critic as breathtaking.

Over the years, I knew she was both talented and principled, but I didn't realize just how principled until she got in trouble for speaking her mind. (Please read the link, if you are unfamiliar with the episode.) Her simple comment in 2003, and the ensuing nonsense she and the Dixie Chicks suffered, provided box seats for people outside of the country music enclosure. They watched as an accomplished performer was vilified, boycotted, and even received death threats. For many observers, this merely confirmed what they already assumed was true about the country music crowd. (An unfortunate assumption.)

That same year, Sheryl Crow appeared on Good Morning America wearing this t-shirt. Her guitar
Also talented, smart, and
authentic, but somehow
avoided chastisement.
strap said "No War," her website posted an open letter protesting the war--she was as anti-war as Jane Fonda in her salad days. Looking back on 2003, Sheryl Crow recently said, 
"I didn't really suffer the backlash that the Dixie Chicks did, just because I approached it in a different fashion. But yeah, I've always been outspoken, and luckily have not had my head chopped off." (link)
Lucky, indeed. Ten years later, we find Sheryl Crow releasing an album with a notably country flavor to it. (My palate is not sensitive enough to tell the difference, but I did enjoy the music.) Easy is a relaxing tune about bug spray, cold beer and a stay-cation I wouldn't mind going on. I hope her song does well and she enjoys all the good things that come with success.

And I hope the world continues to listen to Natalie Maines and hear all that she has to say. Her album Mother comes out next week (you can hear it here); it sounds to me deliciously gritty and honest and still kind of has that conscience-of-society thing going on. I love it. I want it to do well for her; I want everyone everywhere to hear her ideas.

If I live to be a hundred, I will never understand why audiences reviled the Dixie Chicks but let Sheryl Crow slide. That's people for you, I suppose--scared, passionate, deep in the fog of war. Fortunately it was 10 years ago, though. The artists have moved on, and evidently so have the audiences. As it should be. Let the music play on.