Dixie Chicks Enjoy Sweet Victory at Grammys

Trio's Five Wins Include All-Genre Album, Record and Song of the Year

After leveling the competition with five wins at Sunday night’s (Feb. 11) Grammy Awards, the taste of victory was particularly sweet for the Dixie Chicks. In fact, by the time the trio picked up the coveted album of the year award, lead vocalist Natalie Maines joked, “I’m ready to make nice!”

Carrie Underwood also triumphed at the Grammys — winning the all-genre best new artist award and a best female country vocal performance award for her recording of “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” The composition also netted a country song of the year win for songwriters Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson.

But the night belonged to the Chicks. Their Taking the Long Way was named overall album of the year in a field that included Gnarls Barkley, John Mayer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Justin Timberlake. Notably, it marks only the third time in Grammy history that a country-oriented album has won album of the year honors. (It happened in 1968 with Glen Campbell’s By the Time I Get to Phoenix and in 2001 with the soundtrack to the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

“Not Ready to Make Nice,” featured on Taking the Long Way, resulted in wins for overall record of the year and song of the year. Additionally, Taking the Long Way won best country album honors against projects by Alan Jackson, Little Big Town, Willie Nelson and Josh Turner. “Not Ready to Make Nice” won for best country performance by a duo or group with vocal.

The wins at the awards show in Los Angeles serve as an indication of the music industry’s respect for the rough road the Dixie Chicks have traveled since Maines criticized President Bush during a concert in London in 2003 when the U.S. was on the verge of the war in Iraq.

“I think people are using their freedom of speech here tonight with all of these awards,” Maines said in accepting the album of the year nod. “We get the message. There’s a lot of awesome music this year and fantastic performances. I’m very humbled. I think people were using their voice the same way this loudmouth did.”

Emily Robison thanked her husband, singer-songwriter Charlie Robison, and their children.

“I think they’re the ones who probably had it the hardest there for the last three years. I just wanted to recognize that we know what you went through.”

In accepting the country album of the year award, Maines thanked bandmates Robison and Martie Maguire for their support.

“For the first time in my life, I’m speechless,” Maines said. “Thank you Martie and Emily, for stickin’ by me. I told you I’d take you to the Grammys. Stick with me. Thank you everyone. We are very, very appreciative and honored.”

The trio shared overall song of the year honors with songwriter Dan Wilson, who collaborated with them on “Not Ready to Make Nice.”

“It’s a very strange place to be sometimes … without a genre necessarily,” Maguire noted when the song of the year award was presented. “But I think our core fans have always stayed true to us, and I want to thank them for staying with us. And we wouldn’t have done this album without everything we went through, so we have no regrets.”

Underwood’s trophy for best female country vocal performance was presented prior to the telecast. In winning the all-genre best new artist honor, Underwood was selected above James Blunt, Chris Brown, Imogen Heap and Corinne Bailey Rae.

“This is absolutely unbelievable,” Underwood said. “I love country music, first of all. There’s so many people to thank.” She continued with a list that included her parents, record and management company executives and American Idol creator Simon Fuller.

Bon Jovi had never won a Grammy, but that changed after they qualified in the country category. The band’s collaboration with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles on “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” was named best country collaboration with vocals. The track is featured on Bon Jovi’s album, Have a Nice Day, and the band members have been working on a new country-influenced album in Nashville.

Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs added to their extensive collection of trophies. Gill collected the 18th Grammy of his career when “The Reason Why,” a track from his four CD set, These Days, was named best country male vocal performance. Skaggs collected his 12th Grammy with Instrumentals, the latest album with his band, Kentucky Thunder. Randy Travis won his sixth Grammy when Glory Train was named best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album.

Bruce Springsteen’s We Shall Overcome — The Seeger Sessions was chosen best traditional folk album, and Bob Dylan’s Modern Times won in the best contemporary folk/Americana album category.

Walk the Line, the film biography of Johnny Cash and June Carter, was named best compilation soundtrack album. Bryan Sutton and Doc Watson won for best country instrumental performance for “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” a track from Sutton’s album, Not Too Far From the Tree.

In a much-publicized reunion, the Police opened the show with their 1979 hit, “Roxanne.” Singer and political activist Joan Baez introduced the next performers, referring to the Dixie Chicks as “three brave women” before the trio performed “Not Ready to Make Nice.”

Reba McEntire introduced Underwood and Rascal Flatts in a tribute to Eagles founding member Don Henley and late Western swing bandleader Bob Wills. Henley is this year’s MusiCares person of the year, awarded to musicians for philanthropic efforts. Wills was among the recipients of the Recording Academy’s lifetime achievement award. Other singers and musicians honored with lifetime achievement awards this year include Joan Baez, Booker T. & the MGs, opera singer Maria Callas, jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, the Doors and the Grateful Dead.

Singing Wills’ “San Antonio Rose,” Underwood was backed on by a band that included legendary fiddler Johnny Gimble and Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson. Rascal Flatts were featured next on the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” followed by Underwood’s rendition of “Desperado.” Underwood joined Rascal Flatts on the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane.”

Other performers included Beyoncé, John Mayer, Gnarls Barkley, Shakira and Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and others.

CMT/CMT.com editorial director Chet Flippo provided the winners information from backstage at the Grammy Awards show.

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.