The Dixie Chicks are part of the youth brigade in 1990s country music, a movement that has placed as much emphasis on sexy, good looks as on musical talent. The Chicks, however, are highly accomplished musicians—founding member Martie Seidel finished third in the 1989 National Fiddle Championships—capable of playing a wide range of styles, including folk, bluegrass, hard country, and adult contemporary pop.
Seidel and her sister, banjo player Emily Erwin, formed the group—named after the Little Feat recording, "Dixie Chicken"—in 1989 with bassist Laura Lynch and guitarist Robin Lynn Macy. Their debut album, Thank Heavens for Dale Evans (crystal Clear; 1990), exuded a traditional country and western feel. The next two LPs—Little Ol’ Cowgirl (Crystal Clear; 1992) and Shouldn’t a Told You That (Crystal Clear; 1993)—were transitional in nature, as the group edged toward a more modern sound. Macy had departed before the third album, followed by Lynch shortly after the group signed with Sony’s resurrected Monument label in 1995.
With youthful lead vocalist/guitarist Natalie Maines as a replacement, the trio’s breakthrough album, Wide Open Spaces (Monument; 1998), had a look that was as contemporary as their hook-laden country-pop. Wide Open Spaces became the top-selling group LP in country music history, moving more than four million units within the first year of its release, due in part to three hit singles: "I Can Love You Better" (Monument; 1998), "There’s Your Trouble" (Monument 78899; 1998; #1 C&W, #36 pop), and "Wide Open Spaces" (Monument; 1998; #1). It earned a Grammy for Best Country Album, while the Chicks were named Favorite New Country Artist at the American Music Awards in addition to capturing Best Vocal Group honors and the Horizon Award from the Country Music Association. Fly (Monument; 1999), fueled by the hit single, "You Were Mine" (Monument; 1999; #1 C&W, #34 pop), also dominated the country charts as well as winning two Grammys in 2000, Best Country Album and Best Vocal Performance by Country Duo or Group.
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