Seven musical artists who turned in exquisite five-album runs

These five-album runs are not to be missed.
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Wide Open Spaces (1998)
Fly (1999)
Home (2002)
Taking the Long Way
Gaslighter (2020)

At the risk of venturing into some contentious culture-war waters, I’ll go out on a limb and say the band once known as The Dixie Chicks produced one of the greatest three-album runs in country music history between 1998 and 2002. After that, their story gets more complicated as they both won and lost fans due to political statements and an examination of what country music is and isn’t. It seemed for a long while that the trio had said their goodbyes with 2006’s Taking the Long Way. Then, Gaslighter appeared and it was as if the 14-year hiatus had not even happened.

The Dixie Chicks existed prior to 1998, but they didn’t have Natalie Maines as their lead singer. They had been an up-and-coming country/bluegrass quartet before the lineup shift. Maines' voice is immediately dominant on the opening tracks of Wide Open Spaces – both the title track and the proudly possessive “I Can Love You Better.” And the toughness of “Let ‘Er Rip” foretold of women who were not going to wilt in the face of controversy.

The follow-up, Fly, smashed all records and made the trio the biggest stars in country music. The romantic beauty of “Cowboy Take Me Away,” and the romantic reality of “Goodbye Earl” pretty much covered as much ground as two songs could on the subject of love.

Home is a gorgeous album. It has rugged rockers and the tenderest of love songs. It should have teed them up for long-standing dominance in both country and pop. Then came Maines' comment on American foreign policy.

I won’t rehash the story – look it up if you don’t know it. Everyone has an opinion on what she said. The effect was to derail their careers – at least for a while. Taking the Long Way was the thoughtful, passionate rejoinder to those who attempted to put them down. They may have lost some old fans, but the album went double platinum and swept the big three Grammys in 2007.

It seemed as if that was the end of the Chicks’ story and that they would not get to that fifth album. Then they teamed up with super-producer Jack Antonoff for Gaslighter, which drew on all their past styles to create one more sensational country-rock-pop hybrid. Who knows what may be next?