Happy 20th Anniversary to Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces, originally released January 27, 1998.
The old adage that suggests good things come to those who wait could not be more apropos with respect to the Dixie Chicks’ career evolution. However, in their case, great things came to them as a result of their commitment to musicianship, hard work, and perseverance. Founded in 1989 by Laura Lynch, Robin Lynn Macy and the multi-instrumentalist sibling pair of Martie and Emily Erwin (later Martie Maguire and Emily Robison), the group developed an increasingly devoted following in the early ‘90s, but widespread attention and airplay eluded them.
Lynch and Macy left the group a few years into their tenure with the band, vocalist Natalie Maines was added to the lineup, they signed their first major label deal with Sony Music’s Monument Records, and the group spent a handful of years recording their most fully realized suite of songs up to that point in their career. Released in late January 1998, Wide Open Spaces seemingly emerged from nowhere to take the country charts, CMT airwaves, and music fans’ rapt attention by storm. The album’s mix of accessible melodies, traditional country flourishes mixed with a broad palette of musical influences, and Maines’ distinctive vocal style made for a winning combination, and one that seduced millions of music fans, both inside and outside of the country arena.
In the eight years following Wide Open Spaces, the group released three critically and commercially acclaimed long players in Fly (1999), Home (2002), and Taking the Long Way (2006). Since then, the Chicks have focused on touring and their respective side projects, including Maguire and Robison’s duo Court Yard Hounds which has yielded two studio albums in 2010’s eponymous debut and 2013’s Amelita, as well as Maines’ solo career which manifested in the 2013 release of her solo debut Mother.
10 Fast Facts about Wide Open Spaces:
(1) Some people assume that Wide Open Spaces was the Dixie Chicks’ debut album, but it’s actually their fourth album, following Thank Heavens for Dale Evans (1990), Little Ol’ Cowgirl (1992), Shouldn’t a Told You That (1993).
(2) However, it was their first album to feature vocalist Natalie Maines, who replaced founding member Laura Lynch.
(3) Maines’ father Lloyd plays steel guitar on the album. He is also responsible for introducing his daughter to Maguire and Robison.
(4) Five singles were released from the album, including “I Can Love You Better,” “There’s Your Trouble,” “Wide Open Spaces,” “You Were Mine,” and “Tonight the Heartache’s on Me”
(5) The album features a handful of covers, including J.D. Souther’s “I’ll Take Care of You,” Maria McKee’s “Am I the Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way),” and Bonnie Raitt’s “Give It Up or Let It Go.”
(6) Wide Open Spaces won two GRAMMY Awards at the 1999 ceremony, including best Country Album and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (“There’s Your Trouble”)
(7) Propelled by Wide Open Spaces, the Dixie Chicks won two CMA Awards in 1998, including Best Vocal Group of the Year and the Horizon Award (now known as the New Artist of the Year award). Other artists that have won the latter include such heavyweights as The Judds (1984), Randy Travis (1986), Clint Black (1989), Garth Brooks (1990), Alison Krauss (1995), LeAnn Rimes (1997), Brad Paisley (2000), Keith Urban (2001), Carrie Underwood (2006), Taylor Swift (2007), Lady Antebellum (2008), Kacey Musgraves (2013), Chris Stapleton (2015), and Maren Morris (2016).
(8) In 1998, sales of Wide Open Spaces exceeded sales for all other country music group albums combined.
(9) More than 12 million copies of Wide Open Spaces have been sold in the US to date, the most by any country duo or group to date.
(10) Wide Open Spaces is the third best-selling country studio album of all time, after Shania Twain’s Come On Over (1997) and Garth Brooks’ No Fences (1990)