151. Dixie Chicks – ‘Travelin’ Soldier’ (2002)

“One Friday night at a football game
The Lord’s Prayer said and the anthem sang
A man said folks, would you bow your head
For a list of local Vietnam dead”

Taken from the album Home

US #25

Continuing this portion of the list’s trend of heartbreaking songs that make you feel a little bit like jumping off a bridge, here come the Dixie Chicks with their tearjerking protest song, originally written by Bruce Robison in 1996. As you have seen and will continue to see, I’m a sucker for the protest song and the mournful ballad, and nowhere are the two united so well as they are here.

The story in ‘Travelin’ Soldier’ is not especially original – soldier meets girl, they write letters to each other while he’s away, until he dies. But the way it is told through minimalist instrumentation and sad harmony is really special. Natalie Maines has one of the most beautiful voices in music, able to portray emotions effectively while never becoming preachy or sickly sweet. This has a lot in common with the last country glurge on this list, ‘Coat Of Many Colors’ – it tells a sad story but you never feel like you’re being emotionally manipulated due to the honest vocals and simple style.

I’ve said before that Home is one of my all-time favourite albums, and it says a lot about the quality of the record that ‘Travelin’ Soldier’ is only the third-best song on it. With the soaring chorus, marching band outro and sense of respectful disappointment with the concept of war and death, ‘Travelin’ Soldier’ is beautiful, handled perfectly and elevates a song that may have been ignored to being a modern country classic. It never loses sight of a melody, it stays catchy and lodges itself in your brain while feeling solemn and making you think.

Live at An Evening With The Dixie Chicks:

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