Released in 1998, Wide Open Spaces established the Dixie Chicks as superstars right out of the gate. It produced five top ten hits, including three #1 singles, and sold more than twelve million copies in the United States alone. It remains their biggest selling album to date. But is it among their best?
It’s been 10 years this month since Carrie Underwood released “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” a song that would define her early on as a wholesome, powerhouse vocalist with mass appeal. It was a fitting label at the time, but it fell short of what I knew her to be: a deeply emotive artist who understood humanity.
She was one of those artists that my parents listened to in the car. The CD was always Hits: 1979-1989. My dad loved “My Baby Thinks He’s a Train” and my mom, “Tennessee Flat-Top Box.” They both loved “Seven Year Ache.”
But by the time I was listening to country music independently, with CMT as my primary conduit for new music, Cash had already left country music behind. Given that she was never big on making music videos in the first place, I saw the clip for “The Wheel” a few times, and that was it.
We can thank the shortsighted radio consultant Keith Hill for one thing: drawing attention to the women of country music in a year where so many of them are making outstanding music. As their mainstream counterparts cycle through a series of one-note styles and themes, female country artists are putting out diverse and decidedly more progressive music, even as they draw influence from previous generations. That they do so while supporting each other makes it all the more impressive.