03 March 2007

Shut up and ... sting

We just got in from "Shut Up and Sing" at the Peachtree. That's the documentary about the Dixie Chicks' fall from grace after Natalie Maines' condemnation of President Bush. Never been a big fan of the girls -- or modern country music in general -- but I was interested in this from a freedom of speech angle. I was rewarded, as that's almost exclusively what the doc is about.

While the film felt a bit sympathetic toward the girls, it was a "warts and all" look. It showed them as superficial at times, indecisive at others. But it also showed them at their most courageous (performing under a serious death threat), and it showed how a single incident can firebrand folks. They also seemed very self-aware. My favorite moment came when Maines, fed up with officials trying to figure out how to posture the band's forthcoming album for maximum sales, says, "Can't we just be Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan?" Then she quickly pointed out that she knew the Chicks weren't of that artistic caliber, but couldn't they just record their music and let the fans of it find them?

And while it still didn't swing me to modern country, their new stuff sounded stronger. Maybe it's because Rick Rubin was producing it, or maybe it's because what they were singing was finally something honest, important and sincere, instead of just trying to sound that way, like most of their former peers.

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