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The Dixie Chicks speak out against murder

But you gotta love their ”Thelma and Louise”-style taste for revenge, says Ken Tucker

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The Dixie Chicks speak out against murder

With a moniker like the Dixie Chicks, you pretty much know you have one strike going against you among rock & roll fans, who hear such a name as either self-defined-sexist, cornball, or both. Country music isn’t known for its irony, which most of the time is a blessing: It gets its best effects from honest, forthright emotions. But these Chicks — sisters Emily Robison, who plays the banjo, and Martie Seidel, who plays fiddle, and guitarist Natalie Maines, who sings her brains out — intend their name as a softened code for tough chicks. They don’t mess around, as when they sing with glee about offing a wife-beater for good in ”Goodbye Earl.”

That song, a variation on ”Thelma and Louise,” was written by Dennis Linde, one of the many old-pro country songwriters the Dixie Chicks employ on their new No. 1-on-the-pop-charts hardcore country CD ”Fly”; Linde is also the author of Elvis Presley’s last great hit, ”Burnin’ Love.” ”Goodbye Earl” has, to my amusement and probably that of the Chicks, stirred some debate over the violence in its lyrics.

USA Today even went so far as to publish a long list of country songs dating back to the ’50s in which bad spouses and innocent victims are gotten rid of, starting with Johnny Cash shooting a man in Reno, ”just to watch him die.” When country singers trill about murder, it’s a troubling but titillating pop trend; when rappers do it, it’s criticized as criminal behavior and a reason for banishment. This would be funny if it wasn’t so racist.

On their CD booklet, the Chicks add a note to the end of the ”Goodbye Earl” lyrics: ”The Dixie Chicks do not advocate premeditated murder, but love getting even.” That barely sounds like contrition to me, and good for them: They’re giving the lie to corporate hypocrisy all across the land. I’ll bet that stores such as Wal-Mart, which routinely scrub their shelves clean of violent-fantasied rap, won’t try to ban un-warning-stickered white musicians this popular.