Natalie Maines's first solo album is polished, adult rock

Natalie Maines's album 'Mother' is her first recording since the Dixie Chicks' 2006 album 'Take the Long Way Home.' Maines sets aside the playfulness that often marked her country music work in 'Mother.'

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Natalie Maines performs at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Bruce Springsteen at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Natalie Maines's first solo album continues her movement into a deeply considered, provocative form of polished adult rock heard on her last recording, the Dixie Chicks's 2006 award-winning "Take the Long Way Home."

As with that album, Maines sets aside the cheeky playfulness that marked her success in country music. Instead, she carefully curates an album of covers and originals by other writers – with one strong original, "Take It On Faith." She leans hard on philosophical lyrics about self-identity (the title song, "Free Life") and the importance of strong relations ("Without You," ''Come Cryin' To Me"). Much like Maines's public persona since her fallout with the conservative right after speaking out against the Iraq war, the songs waver between gutsy stands and seeking shelter with those who care for and understand her.

Musically, producer Ben Harper gives her a lush background on intimate songs and a bluesy raucousness on up-tempo tunes. Maines shows how she can wail on rockers like Patty Griffin's "Silver Bell," but it's on Jeff Buckley's dramatic "Lover, You Should've Come Over" that she shows how effective she can be with emotional vulnerability and the power of the full range of her vocals.

Maines's talent once put the Dixie Chicks atop the country music world, which made the group's rejection and withdrawal such a loss. "Mother" finds Maines still affected by that controversy. But it also proves that, as an artist, she's still an American treasure.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.