Maybe the Dixie Chicks dared to undertake this acoustic, bluegrass-flavored album in order to kill the dumb-blonde image they've always teasingly courted and never seriously deserved. Or maybe the astounding success of the tradition-soaked O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack has finally been acknowledged in Nashville's corporate halls. Or maybe, as their bio claims, the three young women are just letting new marriages and a new baby call them home.
The Chicks abandoned Nashville to record in a Texas living room; still, the album works not because it's so laid-back, but because it resists the very sentimentality that O Brother polishes like a fossil encased in amber. The sprightly opening track, "Long Time Gone," acknowledges that old-timey traditions are indeed long gone; "White Trash Wedding" revels in bad behavior; and the closer, "Top of the World" (written by Patty Griffin), is as complex and blue as prime John Prine. The Chicks falter midway through -- when love comes calling -- but the album's best song, "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)," is an ode not to the ideal man, but to the little guy in Superman pajamas on the couch. Deny that sentimentality its due, and it's your loss alone.