Wide Open Spaces unveiled the new incarnation of the Dixie Chicks, revealing an eclectic, assured group that was simultaneously rootsy and utterly modern, but if that 1998 de facto debut captured the band just leaving the ground, Fly -- perhaps appropriately, given the title -- finds the group in full flight, in full possession of their talents. This time around, the different sounds they draw upon are more fully integrated, which only makes them more distinctive as a group. Even if the whole of the album feels more of a piece, they still take the time to deliver a slice of pure honky tonk on "Hello Mr. Heartache" and a piece of breakneck bluegrass on the rip-roaring, wickedly clever "Sin Wagon," which is also one of the group originals here, a collaboration between Natalie Maines and Emily Robison and outside writer Stephony Smith. It -- along with the Maines-cowritten "Without You," the Maines/Robison "Don't Waste Your Heart" and Martie Seidel's co-written "Ready to Run" and "Cowboy Take Me Away" -- showcase the trio's increasing craft as writers, which is one of the reasons this album sounds unified. But even the outside-written material feels like the group, whether it's the twangy boogie "Some Days You Gotta Dance," Patty Griffin's "Let Him Fly," the melancholy "Cold Day in July" and, especially "Goodbye Earl" where a wife gets revenge on her abusive husband. Like before, the group moves gracefully between these different styles, with Maines providing a powerful, compelling focus with Robison and Seidel offering sensitive support, and this blend makes Fly a rich, nuanced album that just gets better with repeated listens.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine