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Personnel: John Mayer , Keb' Mo', Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Bonnie Raitt, Chad Smith.At the time of TAKING THE LONG WAY's release, the lyrical content of a high-profile album by a big-deal artist hadn't been the topic of such public scrutiny since Eminem was still a hot topic. The Dixie Chicks certainly had to have seen this coming, though, after they withstood a firestorm of insults, threats, and boycotts for criticizing George W. Bush's policies. "Not Ready to Make Nice" and "Lubbock or Leave It" (among others) make it clear, however, that the Chicks have no intention of retreating a single step from their convictions. Similarly, the fact that TAKING THE LONG WAY is as much a pop album as it is contemporary country should not be misinterpreted as an abandonment of the factions that turned against the group during the controversy in question.The soaring pop choruses and dashes of string orchestration that vie for space with acoustic picking and steel guitar swells should rather be seen in the context of a group that's been evolving toward a pop/country amalgam for some time. (Don't forget that one of their biggest hits was a Fleetwood Mac cover.) If anything, the expansive sonic approach and forthright themes simply stand to show that the Chicks have transcended genre pigeonholes. There's still plenty of country in their sound, but with LONG WAY the trio belongs to the larger world at last.What the critics say...Rolling Stone (p.226) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Their seventh studio album embraces the depth and fury of classic rock while remaining true to the trio's Texas roots."Rolling Stone (p.104) - Ranked #19 in Rolling Stone's "The Top 50 Albums Of 2006" -- "[G]orgeous

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