Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces

I’m not a big fan of newer country music…but this song sounded fresh when it was released. The song crossed over and peaked at #41 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the US Country Songs, and #1 Canda Country Tracks in 1998. The song was on the album Wide Open Spaces and it peaked at #4 on the Billboard Album Charts, #1 on the Country Album Charts, and #1 in the Canadian Country Album Charts in 1999.

Susan Gibson wrote the song years earlier. Gibson was the lead singer of the alt-country band The Groobees. They decided to include “Wide Open Spaces” on their album and their producer was Lloyd Maines… the father of Dixie Chicks lead singer, Natalie Maines. He thought the song would be perfect for the Dixie Chicks and they agreed. After testing it on a couple of audiences, they made it the title track for their major-label debut.

This album was the first album which Natalie Maines was the lead singer.

Their career was going great until all hell broke loose in 2003 after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized George Bush and the invasion of Iraq during a London concert. Country radio led the backlash against the Dixie Chicks. Stations banned their music and even told listeners to trash their CDs.

This defiant, nude cover on ‘Entertainment Weekly’ added fuel to the fire.

Image result for Natalie Maines nude

If this would have been a rock act that did the same thing…would this have happened? I would say no…

On June 26, 2019, The Dixie Chicks has confirmed that they are returning to music with a new studio album after a 13-year hiatus. They are expecting to record their first new studio album since 2006’s Taking the Long Way.

 

From Songfacts

This song was written by Susan Gibson, who was lead singer of a Texas-based band called The Groobees. She wrote the tune back in 1993 in a spirit of rebellion during her first return home from the University of Montana for Christmas break. “My mom probably said something like, ‘What time did you get home last night, honey?’ Whatever it was rubbed me the wrong way,” Gibson told The Montanan. “I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote furiously for twelve minutes, and then I went and did something else. I forgot all about it.” 

The lyrics were so specific to Gibson’s own experience, including lines about her dad warning her to check the oil in her car, she was hesitant about giving away such a personal song. Then she heard the Dixie Chicks’ version: “It made me bawl my eyes out. It was so beautiful—it had this stunning musicianship and very professional production. I could still see my handwriting on the page, and here was this gorgeous recording of it.”

Lloyd Maines, father of Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, worked with The Groobees, and brought the song to the Chicks. The Groobees recorded their version in 1999. 

Thom Oliphant helmed the music video, which intercuts touring footage with the girls singing in open fields of wildflowers as well as performing at Winter Park, Colorado’s annual West Fest. In a Songfacts interview, Oliphant recalled: “That song probably moved them from big clubs to arenas over the course of that year, so we were just out documenting.

A lot of that stuff was shot without a clock ticking. You’re on a bus and we would shoot some stuff, and then it all was woven together with a couple of big days of shooting out around Denver. It made it look like it was all about the same time, but it wasn’t.”

The video was named the Country Music Association’s Video of the Year in 1999.

The Groobees broke up a couple of years after this became a hit, partly because they couldn’t agree on how to handle the success. Susan Gibson, who collected the bulk of the royalties as the tune’s sole writer, explained in Lone Star Music Magazine: “We were once a unified band with nothing to lose and all struggling in the same direction. Some band members thought that the success of that song meant that we could afford to take those crappy-paying, but good-exposure gigs. Others thought it meant we didn’t have to. That discrepancy resulted in each of us taking our own piece of the pie and going forward in our different directions.”

Gibson has since carved a career for herself as a solo artist, but still delights in hearing fans talk about the song: “Because the Dixie Chicks made that song so huge, I have enjoyed the look on people’s faces when they hear that I wrote that song. About 80 percent of the time, somebody has a cool story attached to it about leaving home, getting married, getting divorced, and breaking down in Moab, Utah. 19 percent of the time it’s like, ‘Oh! My mom loooooves that song!’ And there’s 1 percent out there that are like, ‘I don’t really listen to music.’ That’s OK. It’s the stories that I hear back from people that put a face to the huge numbers associated with that song.”

This spent four weeks at #1 on the country chart.

Wide Open Spaces

Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about
Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young girl’s dreams no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She traveled this road as a child
Wide eyed and grinning, she never tired
But now she won’t be coming back with the rest
If these are life’s lessons, she’ll take this test

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She knows the high stakes

As her folks drive away, her dad yells, “Check the oil!”
Mom stares out the window and says, “I’m leaving my girl”
She said, “It didn’t seem like that long ago”
When she stood there and let her own folks know

She needed wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She knows the high stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes