The Dixie Chick Factor

When the alt-country stars known as the Dixie Chicks released their latest album this spring, industry experts expected that the Chicks would be looking to patch up their relationship with “traditional” (read: right-wing) country fans, which soured when the group’s lead singer took a potshot at President Bush a few years back. But the new album seems more like an angry rejoinder than an apology, and mainstream country stations have refused to play it. Somehow, though, the Chicks are #1 on the charts, even without radio. The initial surge can be attributed to savvy marketing, but if the album proves to have staying power, it could signal that increasingly generic terrestrial radio is fading as America’s primary hitmaker.