It's four weeks to the day since that March 10 concert in London where the Dixie Chicks famously messed with a fellow Texan. Their overseas tour finally concluded, the trio have realighted in Austin to face the music that's been blaring since singer Natalie Maines told her audience -- on the brink of wartime -- that ''we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.'' And now their manager is about to weigh in with a pretty bad joke.
''Let's make this story far more interesting than it really is,'' Simon Renshaw suggests. ''The whole thing is a papist conspiracy. This was all about us and Michael Moore figuring out a way to promote the Roman Catholic Church!''
''Oh, please,'' begs Chicks fiddler Martie Maguire, 33, sensing that even this obvious satire might end up being taken seriously. ''We don't need any more controversy.''
A pause. ''Well,'' Maines reminds everyone, ''we did just pose naked.''
Perhaps you've noticed. Earlier in the day, for Entertainment Weekly's cover, the Chicks got themselves thoroughly plucked. It was their idea: Though Maguire admits that their publicist doubted the wisdom of being branded with epithets, ''we wanted to show the absurdity of the extreme names people have been calling us. How do you look at the three of us and think, Those are Saddam's Angels?'' Adds Maines, 28: ''We don't want people to think that we're trying to be provocative. It's not about the nakedness. It's that the clothes got in the way of the labels. We're not defined by who we are anymore. Other people are doing that for us.''