When I picture being a little kid in Kentucky, I think about car rides on country roads with, of course, country radio.

We listened to country music nonstop in my mom’s purple car — precisely the color of Barney the dinosaur — so much so that the hits of the 1990s and 2000s are taking up prominent space in my brain to this day. I soaked up whatever Garth Brooks, Martina McBride and Tim McGraw were singing and the lyrics are still as important, according to my memory, as anything else I have learned.

That picture would be incomplete without one group: the Dixie Chicks.

No one had to teach me that the Dixie Chicks and their songs were important, cool and just as country as anything else. It’s one of those things I learned by osmosis and by how fun it felt to sing along (and make up back-seat car dances) to “Goodbye Earl” with my cousins.

I thought I’d wait to write anything about the Chicks until the band’s new album came out. The trio — Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer — is among many musicians who have postponed album releases because of the coronavirus pandemic. The May 1 release was pushed back to an unannounced date.

But even one new song — and there are two — from the Dixie Chicks is a good enough reason, I think, to write about the Dixie Chicks. The legendary women haven’t put out new music in 14 years.

That’s 14 years without one of the genre’s most successful and, yes, controversial, voices.

They are the makers of so many classics, which makes me wonder, how many classics like “Wide Open Spaces” have we missed out on?

So, thank goodness, the Dixie Chicks are back.

Most of us know why that “controversial” bit from above must be mentioned: In 2003, lead singer Maines told a London audience, “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

As a 10-year-old at the time, I don’t remember hearing anything about this hubbub or how harsh the hammer came down from fans and the country music industry. That would come later. Even when later came, it didn’t change what I thought about the Dixie Chicks.

I found the burning of CDs and cancellation of the Chicks to be an overreaction and, well, mean.

Think about it: If a famous musician said something like that now, would it even rattle our collective feathers? Would it gain that much attention to nearly end a career ?

The Dixie Chicks are returning to a different world, one where it’s OK and celebrated to say what you think.

Country radio might not subscribe to that world. So they might not welcome the Dixie Chicks, one of their own for years, back.

Take the band’s fiery new single, called “Gaslighter.” Will country radio play it?

Who knows.

But I know plenty of people who are already listening.

A new Dixie Chicks song — and a really catchy one at that — after so long is like catching up with a friend who went away for awhile. This friend isn’t holding back.

So for us country-music loving kids from the ’90s? We’re here for it.

During the Chicks’ 2016 reunion tour, I drove across the Midwest to see them in concert twice in one week. Two years later, at my cousin’s wedding, the dance floor cleared for three of us to perform our “Goodbye Earl” dance.

My best friend and I still put on “Cowboy Take Me Away” when we’re driving around our hometown neighborhoods.

Next time I’m there, I can’t wait to have more classics to play.

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