For years, former Observer music editor Zac Crain and I took delight in poking at the Dixie Chicks for pretending the former Dallas street-corner performers didn't exist until singer Natalie Maines joined the band and for acting as though they hadn't released an album till 1998's Wide Open Spaces. (Robert Brooks maintains a site dedicated specifically to the original band, which featured Laura Lynch and Robin Macy--ya 'member, the band's co-founders?) Well, that was a long time ago, and we've come around; if nothing else, I'd sure rather listen to Fly or Home than Thank Heavens for Dale Evans. And the band kinda won us over when Maines proved herself one ballsy Chick by proclaiming from a London stage in 2003, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." I guarantee you, every fan they lost three years ago was one they didn't want in the first place.
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Besides, how else were the Chicks going to make Time magazine's list of the 100 "People Who Shape Our World," which is just out. They join a very motley crew, from Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain to George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey and...former Dallas Mavericks point guard Steve Nash? (Jeez, who do I have to screw at Time to make this list, anyway?) You can debate the merits of any award that goes to both Muqtada al-Sadr and Katie Couric, but it's certainly good timing for the Chicks, whose new album, the Rick Rubin-produced Taking the Long Way, is due out May 23. You can hear the mad-as-hell-pretty-as-heck single "Not Ready to Make Nice" on the band's Web site. --Robert Wilonsky