Dixie Chicks and Michelle Branch

So here we are: Texas' own trio of harmony-singin', Toby Keith-hatin', faux-hawk-sportin', bluegrass-appropriatin', controversy-causin' hell-raisers return to the state they're ashamed to share with the president, the launching pad that gave them to the world, whether or not the world was ready. And what is Texas to do with them? Receive 'em with wide-open arms, of course. Last year's Home, the Dixie Chicks' third breakthrough album in a row, is exactly the kind of thing mainstream country needs right about now: funny ("White Trash Wedding"), sad ("Landslide"), respectful ("Long Time Gone"), sassy ("Truth No. 2"), serious ("Top of the World") and tacky ("I Believe in Love"). What's more, advance word has the Chicks taking advantage of their new cachet on the road, rolling plenty of freedom-fighter footage and packing the pre-show mix tape with a sly in-joke or three. Be there or prepare yourself for four more years. Of whatever. Make sure to arrive in time to see if opener Michelle Branch can hang with her sisters, too: Her new Hotel Paper, while definitely nice enough for after-school trips to the soda shop, feels more like the kind of anodyne distraction the Chicks aspired to in a different life than the fist-pumping significance they've since accrued. Think Branch'll rock the vote in 2004?


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