It was 1998’s Wide Open Spaces—their first album together as the Dixie Chicks—that made the trio of Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Martie Maguire massive stars, able to garner both critical acclaim and enormous sales in one fell swoop. But it was the follow-up the next year that put them on the path to legendary status. Even though Maines would later admit that she now has a hard time listening to Fly (she thought her Southernesque accent was too affected), it's actually now a North Star of modern twang: There's sin, heartbreak, dancing, and a ton of fast-picking banjo. And though the album was embraced by a Nashville that would later shut out the Chicks, it's also a blueprint for how to toy gleefully with the rules—challenging the ways that women of the genre are supposed to behave, how they approach their instruments, and the topics they are supposed to sing about.
Fly boasted a total of eight official charting singles, including the classic modern murder romp "Goodbye Earl," with Maines' voice full of venom that flipped country's vision of femininity on its head, and the gorgeous "Cowboy Take Me Away," anchored in some of the Chicks' most precise harmonies and skillful strings. Shockingly, "Sin Wagon," which finds the Chicks in their spitfire, barn-burning mode, was not one of those eight, yet still managed to secure airplay and go on to be one of the trio's signature songs.
Though the Chicks only wrote a select few of the tracks on Fly, the record is still a mastery of intelligent song selection: "Heartbreak Town," by Darrell Scott, is sung with exquisite emotion by Maines, while Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller's "Hole in My Head" is pure country kiss-off with a satisfying dose of cowpunk. But Maines and Robison also show on "Don't Waste Your Heart" that they can write circles around most anyone—a precursor to 2006's Taking the Long Way, which the Chicks entirely co-wrote.
"It's funny how the girls get burned," Maines sings on "Don't Waste Your Heart." That's a loaded line for a band that went on to be banned from country radio for simply expressing their opinions. They may have gotten burned, but Fly proves that the Chicks can absolutely take the heat.
Ready to Run
If I Fall You're Going Down with Me
Cowboy Take Me Away
Cold Day in July
Hello Mr. Heartache
Don't Waste Your Heart
Some Days You Gotta Dance
Hole in My Head
Let Him Fly
13 SONGS, 48 MINUTES
AUGUST 31, 1999
℗ 1999 COLUMBIA RECORDS, A DIVISION OF SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT