SXSW: Natalie Maines review

Ever wonder whatever happened to Natalie Maines?

It seemed like she simply disappeared after her platinum-selling, Grammy-winning band, the Dixie Chicks, went on hiatus in 2007.

Well, fans found out what Maines has been up to -- for at least part of that time -- on Wednesday night at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

The singer came to the lovely Austin City Limits Live venue to showcase her debut solo record, "Mother," which is due out May 7. And that's exactly what she did — performing the whole album in its entirety, from start to finish.

It's being billed as a "rock" record. Although, from what we heard at SXSW, it seems like it might end up being a mix of sounds -- ranging from pop to singer-songwriter to Americana to her roots in country. The title track is a cover of Pink Floyd's darkly alluring cut from "The Wall" -- which sure seems like unusual material for Maines to be mining. Yet, her version of the Roger Waters' composition was definitely a highlight of the overall appealing set.

Among those joining Maines onstage was Ben Harper, who is playing a huge hand in Maines' career revival. He co-produced the album, played on it and contributed one of his own songs, "Trained."


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Maines proved that she still has a fine voice, one capable of drawing emotion from many different kinds of songs. The set, like the album, was filled renditions of tunes penned by the likes of Eddie Vedder, Jeff Buckley and the Jayhawks' Mark Olson and Gary Louris.

It was a good start to a new chapter in her career. Yet, it will be intriguing to see just how high Maines can soar on the charts with her fellow Dixie Chicks.

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic.