Teaching a (history) lesson

Dixie Chicks sic lawyers on a fan's exhaustive Web site

The first three Dixie Chicks albums are practically treated as bootlegs. Currently, all three albums are out of print, though both Music Boulevard and CD Now, the Internet's two largest music-retail sites, are selling cassettes of Thank Heavens for Dale Evans and Shouldn't A Told You That--even featuring 30-second soundclips of several songs from both albums, all mono quality and in Real Audio format. Of course, those samples exist for the consumer who wants to actually purchase cassettes (both albums are unavailable on CD, according to the sites, and Little Ol' Cowgirl is missing entirely from both sites' discography).

Only a few CDs of the first two albums are floating around, and less than a thousand of Shouldn't A Told You That exist. Crystal Clear Sound had five-year licenses on all three albums, but the band owns all of them now, since the license on Shouldn't A Told You That expired on November 30. According to Crystal Clear Sound owner Sam Paulos, "If you see one in stores, don't count on it being replenished if somebody buys it."

The band hasn't quite hid its first three albums from sight: A time line on the Dixie Chicks' Sony Web site mentions all three independently released discs, even noting that Thank Heavens for Dale Evans cost $5,000 to record. Then again, this is the time line that mentions Natalie Maines' year of birth and doesn't even mention that there were two other members in the band.

Brooks' Web site points out with particular dismay that in a January article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Maines told writer Shirley Jinkins she was overcome by "that sophomore scare thing" and that the Chicks will "work ourselves to death to avoid that." Brooks, who reprints several articles about the bands and adds comments when he thinks something is historically inaccurate, writes on his site that the band should have been worried about the second-album curse "two albums ago!"

As for Brooks, he remains a Dixie Chicks fan, as much as he was at that company picnic in 1992. He prefers the older material, but the new songs have grown on him; he has even taken shots at critics who write negative reviews of Wide Open Spaces. Yet he also hopes the band reconciles itself with its past, for their own good and the fans' benefit.

"Part of what makes them so special to me, and to a lot of people in Dallas I think, is where they've come from and what they've gone through," he says. "It's been a long, hard road. To me, that history only serves to enhance what they are now. Without that history, they're just another Shania."

Send Street Beat your MP3 clips of love to rwilonsky@dallasobserver.com.

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