It’s going to be a very interesting year for Natalie Maines, and Dan Wilson and his fans are already intrigued by at least one aspect of her pending solo career.
The once-beleaguered Dixie Chicks singer just posted her version of the once-and-forever Minnesota music vet’s “Free Life” as a lyric video front and center on her website. It’s the first track to go public off her solo debut, “Mother,” which arrives May 7. It’s a pretty wise choice to lead off, too, at once underscoring her Chicks past (since Wilson co-wrote “Not Ready to Play Nice” and five other songs on their last record) while also pointing toward her current move away from the country music realm. There’s nary a hint of twang in her “Free Life,” but there is a bit of a political undercurrent.
Maines first played the song – the title track to Wilson’s own solo debut, from 2007 – at a rally for the then-still-imprisoned West Memphis Three. It came up again when she went into the studio with producer Ben Harper to work on this record (you can hear the California rocker singing back-up here). Other familiar tracks they wound up recording for it include the Jayhawks’ “I’d Run Away,” fellow WM3 advocate Eddie Vedder’s “Without You” and Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” the latter of which reflects Maines' political and personal lives in the Chicks' six-year hiatus.
In a posting on his own website about the song, Wilson said he and Maines recently reunited to work on material for his upcoming record. “Then a week or so later, Natalie surprised me by e-mailing me a rough mix of this version,” Wilson writes. “Generally, that’s not the path my songwriting has taken: If I’m writing on an artist’s record, it’s usually a fresh, from-scratch song written with the artist. So it’s especially sweet when an artist I admire, like Natalie, covers a song of mine that I’ve already recorded.”
Sweet indeed. Take a listen: