Remember When the Chicks Released Their Major Label Debut Album?
The Chicks were already veterans of the recording studio when they released their major-label debut album, Wide Open Spaces, on Jan. 27, 1998. The group switched up their approach completely for the album, which changed not only their career, but also the entire trajectory of contemporary country music.
Formed under the name Dixie Chicks in 1989, the group's original lineup included Laura Lynch, Robin Lynn Macy and sisters Martie and Emily Erwin (now Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer). That lineup performed extensively in and around Texas, focusing on traditional bluegrass and country music and even wearing old-timey stage costumes.
They released three albums independently from 1990-1993, but by 1995, the group was looking toward a more mainstream sound and image, and both Lynch and Macy were gone, while new lead singer Natalie Maines — the daughter of Texas steel guitar mainstay Lloyd Maines — brought a more contemporary slant and spitfire energy to the band.
Now a trio and still recording as the Dixie Chicks at the time (the trio would ultimately change their name to the Chicks in 2020 amid renewed calls for social justice, disavowing their former name's ties to slavery), they turned to some of the top songwriting talent in Nashville and beyond for the tracks on their major-label debut. Mark Selby, Tia Sillers, Kostas, Radney Foster, J.D. Souther, Maria McKee, Bonnie Raitt and more contributed to the tracks, resulting in an alluring mix of country, rock, pop, blues and more that created wide appeal for the album.
Released via Monument Records, Wide Open Spaces spawned five singles at country radio, all of which were successful. The project's lead single, "I Can Love You Better," reached No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, while the follow-up single, "There's Your Trouble," gave the Chicks their first No. 1 hit.
Title song and third single "Wide Open Spaces" logged the Chicks' second chart-topping single, followed by "You Were Mine," their third No. 1 hit. "Tonight the Heartache's on Me" finished off the album cycle with a No. 6 hit, and Wide Open Spaces went on to become one of the most important albums in the history of the genre.
The album took home the ACM Award for Album of the Year, CMAs for Single and Music Video of the Year for "Wide Open Spaces," and Grammy Awards for Best Country Album and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal.
Wide Open Spaces would go on to sell more than 13 million copies, earning rare Diamond status from the RIAA. The album launched the Chicks as one the most popular acts in country music during that period of time, and one of the most popular artists in the history of country music.
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