Natalie Maines Says Country Music Lyrics Lack Subtlety

Natalie Maines

Videos by American Songwriter

Natalie Maines is over country music. Particularly and specifically the explicit or obvious style of songwriting that leaves nothing to the imagination and everything said out loud. You might think that, in addition to her own history in the genre, country would be in the former Dixie Chick’s blood, what with her being the daughter of Grammy-winning producer Lloyd Maines, a man who has worked with the likes of country legends like Flatlanders members Butch Hancock, Joe Ely and Jimmy Dale Gilmore.

Review: Natalie Maines, Mother

But Maines has no interest in the nuance-less twang produced by her former peers. She made this, perhaps ironically, explicit in a recent story in the June 6 Rolling Stone: “I just didn’t like how blatant country was. Nothing seemed poetic or subtle. Nothing could be interpreted two different ways!” The crux of her complaint lies with the songwriting, where “James Taylor can write “Fire and Rain” and tell you it’s about a mental institution, this and that – and you listen to it, and you’re trying to decipher it all. And, you know, a country song would be like [sings twangily], “I’m in a mental institution!””

Take, say, “Accidental Racist” by Brad Paisley. Says Maines, “it just sounds like an out-of-touch white guy making an observation that I feel like we all made in junior high or high school.” Yet this makes for an interesting conversation given how much controversy Paisley’s collaboration with LL Cool J generated around its meaning. Subtle maybe not, but it did result in multiple interpretations.

Rolling Stone concludes on their cover that this is “war on Nashville.” What do you think of Maines argument? Is it time to revive the subtlety in country songs or prepare to battle for blatancy? Let us know in the comments.


Free Download: David Byrne & St. Vincent’s Brass Tactics EP