Although I’m a rocker at heart, there’s something I just fucking love about the Dixie Chicks. (It’s OK, you can laugh.)

I first encountered the trio at a crossroads point in my life, after a break-up. From a hotel room after I left on my boyfriend, I turned on the TV to the video for their cover of “Landslide,” a Stevie Nicks song.

“I’ve been afraid of changin’/ cause I built my life around you” are the famous lyrics that spoke to me that day. I bought their 2002 album, Home, shortly thereafter, and I was impressed. I did, however, notice with disappointment that the Chicks didn’t write most of their songs. A band loses their credibility if they can’t write most of their own songs.

Taking The Long Way is different; all 14 songs are co-written by the trio, and the album opens up a new era in the music and the lives of the Dixie Chicks. They are now all songwriters, musicians, mothers and political radicals – badass mamas with a twang in their voices, who play a mean banjo and fiddle and who bleach their hair and wear heels onstage.

They had songwriting help, and “Lullaby,” their customary sweet ballad to their children, swims in the old melodies of Semisonic. Former lead singer Dan Wilson helped out on five other tracks as well, including the album’s first single, “Not Ready To Make Nice.”

This song is considered political, stemming from lead singer Natalie Maines’ anti-Bush comments and their subsequent ban from country radio. Ironically, it is the best-selling album in the country as of press time.

It’s hard to believe that that sweet voice can be “mad as hell,” as Maines bellows in the single, but she sings with such conviction that I do believe her.

I was a little scared about their political side, but fortunately, it works. Damn well. And fortunately, the Chicks don’t turn this album into a political cry because “unlikely activist against censorship” is only one of their roles.

The rest of the album deals with life, love and motherhood.

“And I never seem to do it like anybody else/ Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down/ But I’ve always found my way somehow/ By takin’ the long way around,” is the chorus of the opening song, “The Long Way Around.” It was my favorite, written as a song for free spirits, a fantastic wind-in-your-hair-driving-along-the-coast song. I loved it.

Taking the Long Way is my favorite driving music this week, an eclectic dance of rock and pop and country with a side of mommies and politics. In their seventh album, the Dixie Chicks have evolved into respected musicians. A major accomplishment for a group who rose to fame with their white trash domestic anthem, “Goodbye, Earl.”

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