I've been a Dixie Chicks fan since they were a local Austin band and Natalie Maines was still in high school up in Lubbock. For my tastes, I liked their album Home more than their most recent offering, Taking the Long Way - Home really let the girls' instrumental lights shine, and I thought Natalie Maines vocals were given greater range in the album's arrangements and song selection. But even their average performances stand out, to me, as among the best in country music.
The Chicks have a documentary coming out soon called Shut Up and Sing! that focuses on the controversy surrounding Maines' criticisms of President Bush. See the trailer here. They also recently performed and were interviewed on Bill Maher's Amazon Fishbowl; go here to watch that video.
I'm a little tired of that particular controversy, but I'll probably go see the movie. I'd listen to the Chicks sing the phone book. Plus I'm not a huge fan of Dubya nor the Iraq war myself. To me, the boycott of the Chicks by country music radio stations and death threats from irate fans was real low point for free speech in America - the Chicks really got an up-close-and-personal view of this nation's dark, nativist underbelly. But their celebrity also caused the incident to get overblown beyond its real importance - while their victimization got them a Rolling Stone cover and likely boosted album sales, Muslims targeted for sneak and peek searches under the Patriot Act, for example, or abuses at Guantanamo had a lot harder time getting on the national radar screen.
From a musical perspective, I'd like to see the Chicks go back to Maines' father Lloyd, himself a Texas music legend, to produce their next album. That collaboration on Home, for my money, really generated something special and fun.