Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Long Way Around

For the birthday of legendary music producer Rick Rubin, Dan Charnas has compiled a list of his top 25 tracks for Complex magazine. Some of the choices are unsurprising--"99 Problems" with Jay-Z, "Under the Bridge" with the Red Hot Chili Peppers to "It's Yours" by T La Rock. These are all unmistakably Rubin-esque (as opposed to Rubenesque, which means something entirely different), but Charnas highlights several songs that one wouldn't have necessarily associated with the iconic producer. Among them is a song from the Dixie Chicks.

After lead singer Natalie Maines voice her opposition to George W. Bush and the incipient Iraq War in 2003, the group found themselves abandoned by their traditional country fan base. Enter Rick Rubin who produced their subsequent album, Taking the Long Way.

Their lead-off single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," understandably got the most attention since it seemed to be a direct answer to their critics. However, the track Charnas chooses to highlight is the softer, subtler title track, "The Long Way Around." The whole song, which is lovely, truly speaks to the experience of leaving a small town or insular community, of not doing what you were raised to do.

Well, I fought with a stranger and I met myself
I opened my mouth and I heard myself
It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself
Guess I could have made it easier on myself
But I, I could never follow
No I, I could never follow

There is such truth in these lyrics. I've often said (and heard others say) that the choice to leave the Orthodox is not the easy one. Falling into line, even if it means adhering to more rules, is often the simpler decision. "Guess I could have made it easier on myself," sings Maines. Easier, yes. But bearable? No.

Here's a lovely live version of the song:

And Happy Birthday to Rick Rubin--thanks for all the great music.

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