SXSW Showcase reviews
Reviewed by Abby Johnston, Fri., March 15, 2013
Natalie MainesACL Live at the Moody Theater, Wednesday, March 13
Dixie Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines breaks her recording silence with the May 7 release Mother, jump-starting her solo career as a full-blown Southwest rocker. She previewed the album with her hourlong set at the austere Moody Theater, along with friend and project collaborator Ben Harper on lap steel and backing vocals. The album takes its title from a flinty cover of the Pink Floyd classic. Maines' rendition Wednesday night shook with desert-inspired sparsity, her powerful Western-tinted voice cutting through the original's murk clear as a bell. The sixpiece band held its water until the halfway mark, when the flood of shiny steel whine and well-placed licks broke forth. Harper's co-written cuts dipped equally into punchy guitar rock and hazy cowboy ballads, inking a clear signature onto the new material through tracks "Trained" and "Vein in Vain." The pièce de résistance Maines saved for the end, when a cello and lap steel added into the mix, played by legend and father Lloyd Maines, whom Harper greeted with a hearty and obviously awestruck handshake. "Take It on Faith" wound through gorgeous soundscapes, culminating with a pseudo-steel battle: Harper v. Maines. The decorated musician and producer took his place by his daughter trading fiery, explosive steel shreds with Harper for upward of three minutes.