From left: Emily Robison, Natalie Maines and Martie Maguire are celebrating reaching the number one slot with their latest album. Their current success signals a comeback after fans deserted them over their criticism of the Iraq war three years ago
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2 JUNE 2006

When three mothers from Texas went on stage at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire in 2003 and criticised the Iraq war they couldn't have predicted the backlash.

For US girl band Dixie Chicks it was the beginning of three years in the country music wilderness. But, after being famously pilloried for her outspoken remarks, lead singer Natalie Maines finally has reason to smile again.

The group's latest offering Taking The Long Way has flown off the shelves, selling more than 500,000 copies to become the top-selling album in the US this week. Natalie and her bandmates, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, also made history as the first ever female band to have three albums go straight into the top slot.

It's a welcome affirmation for the women, who have seven children between them, aged from one to five. In the wake of the incident radio stations refused to play their records, and 31-year-old Natalie was forced to leave the state.

To prove they could handle the flack, the musicians titled the first single off the new record Not Ready To Make Nice. "I can't change who I am," is how the defiant vocalist responds to her critics.

But life isn't all battles over free speech. This summer the ladies will be back on the road, accompanied by their brood of kids, gossiping about which of their nannies manage to hook up with cute guys. As 36-year-old Martie quips, "We're all married, so it's not like we're going to."

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