On Wednesday night at Austin City Limits Live, a venue in downtown Austin, Maines performed in its entirety "Mother," the album she will release on May 12. The title track is her cover of the Pink Floyd song from "The Wall" album.....Reported kansascity.
She also covers the Jeff Buckley song "Lover You Should Have Come Over," "Without You," a track off a solo album by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and "I'd Run Away" by the Jayhawks.
She brought with her a five-piece band, including lap-steel virtuoso Ben Harper, who produced "Mother" and whose presence was barely acknowledged until late in the set, when Maines introduced him.
It was the second performance of her new music (she performed in Los Angeles in February), and Maines seemed to be feeling a little pressure. Seven years have passed since the Dixie Chicks released an album and almost three since they have toured (they opened for the Eagles in summer 2010).
With the Chicks, Maines was typically an energetic spitfire, a brash lead singer with plenty to say and lots of wisecracks. She still has a powerful, agile and arresting voice, but her stage personae Wednesday night was polite and reserved. At times, she seemed a little nervous. She had little to say between songs and when she did it was brief. She had lyrics nearby on a music stand, but didn't seem to rely on them much.
She is almost not recognizable, either. Unlike her platinum blond days with the Chicks, Maines hair these days is dark and short, cut in style that almost exaggerates Justin Bieber's.
There was no mention of the Chicks, and she didn't play any of their songs, though she did perform "Come Cryin' to Me," which she co-wrote with her fellow Chicks, Martie McGuire and Emily Robison. She also performed "Free Life," a track she co-wrote with Dan Wilson of Semisonic about the West Memphis Three and one of the better tracks on "Mother."
The music from "Mother" is a mix of blues, rock and soul. Little of it resembles anything in the Chicks' catalog, which seems to be an inherent intent. It's all straightforward, generic in places, and its primary virtue is Maines' voice, which is still one of the best in the business.
The set ended with a track called "Take It On Faith." For that one, she was joined by her father, pedal steel ace Lloyd Maines. By song's end, he and Harper were engaged in a prolonged, wild-eyed lap steel/pedal steel jam that produced the loudest outburst of the night from a crowd of about 600 or so.
In the end, it was good to hear Maines live again and in such great voice, but this set was also a reminder of how much music, especially country music, misses her other band.