Shut up and Sing film review

Of course, Shut Up and Sing is the 2006 Dixie Chicks documentary film centering on what Natalie Maines said at a London concert just as the Iraq war was just about to start. The exact quote being:

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

And when Natalie uttered the last part, she followed it with a sort of laughing smile.

What I most enjoyed about the film was not so much about the controversy, as I was well aware of it, and all of the consequences, but instead the behind the scenes of writing and recording their album to follow the controversy, Taking the Long Way. Prior to Natalie exercising her right to free speech, the film was going to be a general documentary following the band around.

The first behind the scenes look of the making of Taking the Long Way takes place early on when the film jumps to 2005 after looking at all the controversy, and some of the effects, and trying to remedy and address the issue, via the Entertainment Weekly photoshoot, and a Diane Sawyer interview.

Said first scene is of the Chicks and Dan Wilson working on the track “The Long Way Around”. Before being finalised, Natalie can be seen singing “I hit the highway, with two sisters in a pink R.V.” which would eventually become “I hit the highway, in a pink RV with stars on the ceiling”. Natalie then comes up with the lyric “wouldn’t kiss all the asses that they told me to”. The line “gave a lot of blow jobs” did not make it in immediately before “wouldn’t kiss…” for some reason! Emily came up with “fought with a stranger”. Footage of Natalie recording can be seen, some that made the final master, and some that did not.

Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded the drums on the album, so he notes how the Chili Peppers write their own stuff, originating from a jam session, be it a drum beat or a bass line.

Natalie is seen recording “Lubbock or Leave it”, which then segues into the next scene, going to play it for Rick Rubin (the man!) at what is likely his house. It was nice to see Natalie singing with emotion, as that is how it sounds on the final product, or seeing her sing live.

Rick Rubin comments on an early version of “Voice Inside My Head” that he thinks it is more ordinary right off the bat. The fact that he is not emotional attached to the tracks seems to be why the Chicks like him, thus getting an honest opinion. He also says how the chords and melodies are strong.

Father Maines, Lloyd Maines, played pedal steel guitar, among other instruments on the album, and he is shown doing his stuff, making it look easy as he states. He is recording for “Favorite Year”, a track which Sheryl Crow helped pen, and he asks at one point if it sounds too country.

Also, the emotional side of the film is portrayed well, showing them with their families. Emily at the time was very pregnant, about to give birth to what would be twins. Emily talks on infertility, which actually became a song on the album, “So Hard”. Earlier it is noted how making the album is really their therapy, and I feel that definitely comes across as such.

There is also snippets of Dixie Chicks history, as well as fallout from the controversy, and how that affected what would become the Accidents & Accusations Tour in support of Taking the Long Way.

I find it humourous how the American poster for the movie (pictured on the left) photoshops silver burlap sacks (or something!) on the Chicks. The same thing happened on the DVD cover. The execs must have said “they have offended enough people, no need to offend a few more!”

All in all, a pretty good film, with a good portion of the human element while highlighting the music making process. Definitely worth a watch for those that have not seen it already. Seems Google Video has the whole film up, so it can be watched for free online here, of course not the best quality, but it does the job.

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