Last summer, the Dixie Chicks' rocket ride to country-music stardom hit a bump when they sued and were countersued by their record label, even as the trio's 1999 disc "Fly" marched toward becoming the group's second-straight album to sell 10 million copies.
The amicable-enough resolution this June cleared the way for "Home," which finds the trio still making music appealing enough to manufacture its own trend.
The group's trademark meshing of the members' individual talents into feisty and fun packages remains evident on the disc's opener and first single, "Long Time Gone," but that tune is one of the few on the set that has clear designs on the charts.
The hearty charms of the bobbing Patty Griffin number "Truth No. 2" allow singer Natalie Maines to get raw-edged without having to lean on the displays of irreverent attitude for which she is best known, and there is more than a hint of traditional bluegrass in the playing of sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, particularly when they add fiddle and banjo to the punchy frolic "Tortured, Tangled Hearts."
Perhaps reflecting the fact that two of the three Chicks are entering motherhood, the disc is heavy with sentimental ballads, which range from the genuinely warm "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)" to the unadorned and plodding "I Believe in Love."
Occasional doldrums aside, when the Dixie Chicks are clicking, they offer a mix of musical chops and brassy self-confidence no other act can duplicate, so their return with those qualities intact is most welcome.
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