“Not Ready to Make Nice”- Dixie Chicks,
Taking the Long Way Round- 2006
From their seventh studio album, Not Ready to Make Nice is without a doubt their best known song- mostly due to the colourful backstory that accompanies it. Basically, this is the Dixie Chicks saying ‘screw you’ to the people that boycotted them. And it’s quite a statement.
The opening of this song is dark, a low E minor chord strummed, bass notes strong. Then it’s up to the top strings for some D chord hammer on’s and slides, and bam! We have a country song intro. Well, it is the Dixie Chicks.
Natalie Maines’s vocals are twangy and smooth, accompanied by sharp and clean chords. It’s really the lyrics that count here- “I’ve paid a price, and I’ll keep paying.” -the simplicity cuts through. The tempo’s slow, measured, allowing the vocals space to breathe.
The chorus explodes with three part harmonies and electric guitars. It is typical of the Dixie Chicks, a great melodic line, rising and finishing on a sustained note. It mirrors the tone of the song -“I’m still mad as hell can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should”.In short, screw y’all!
It falls back into the verse, now beefed up with a piano and crunchier guitars. The drums also stop tinkling around and starts churning out some solid rhythms. The verse builds and builds, and Maines gets angry- “Saying that I’d better/ Shut up and sing or my life will be over”. She holds a killer note and the backing reaches a crescendo, we’re ready to spill over into another bottle-smashing chorus.
Then something absolutely bizarre occurs, something so incongruous that I had to listen numerous times to be sure of what I was actually hearing. The pre-chorus throws up an orchestral breakdown! Not only does it not fit the song at all, but the tempo is slowed and it kills the heel-stamping mood! What the hell is going on??
The chorus comes in after a few bars of this alien intrusion, but it lacks the punch that would have been pulled had they just cut straight there. The strings add volume, to be sure, but they seem quite out of place. Even so, the mood is returned and by the end you’ll feel like kicking a bigot in the teeth.
The outro returns to the crisp guitar and vocals, which bookmarks the song quite nicely. Last words go to Maines -“They say, time heals everything/ But I’m still waiting…”