A few much-missed faces suddenly reappeared this year
Halley's comet comes around once in about every 75 years, sending sky-watchers into a tizzy every time. Sometimes country fans feel like they have to wait just as long for their favorite stars to come back - but in 2002, long-awaited favorites were returning left and right.
The biggest comeback was Shania Twain. Five years after releasing the 19-million-selling Come On Over, we got Up! - a two-CD epic featuring two versions each of 19 songs. Shania returned with guns blazing, armed with a million-dollar video for the Top 10 hit "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!"
After spending months on end pleasing audiences on tour in 1998 and 1999, Shania was due for some time off - and then came the announcement of her pregnancy, which pushed work to the back burner. In August 2001 she and husband/collaborator Robert John "Mutt" Lange welcomed their first child, Eja, and now that he's up and around, she is, too. "It's great to be back," she says. "It's been a long time now, I realize that."
Shania wasn't the only one spending as much time in the delivery room as the recording studio over the last few years. Faith Hill gave birth to her third daughter in December 2001, and motherhood again trumped stardom as the follow-up to 1999's smash Breathe took a little while longer. But by October, Faith was back on top with Cry, which blasted onto the charts at No. 1 and disarmed critics who took note of the growth in her vocal prowess during a couple of years out of the limelight.
Yet another of country's biggest acts whose plans have been complicated by expanding families is the Dixie Chicks - in the time between 1999's Fly album and their new Home, two-thirds of the trio found themselves pregnant. Natalie Maines and hubby Adrian Pasdar had their first child, Jackson Slade, in March 2001, while Emily and Charlie Robison gave Jack a playmate when Charles Augustus was born in November.
Of course, that wasn't the only reason the Chicks have been away so long - they spent a good while engrossed in a messy legal dispute with their record label, which they accused of shady accounting practices. All that got sorted out in time for the blockbuster release of the No. 1 Home in August, accompanied by the instant Top 5 hits "Long Time Gone" and "Landslide."
Tanya Tucker, too, disappeared from public view in favor of family time. "I wanted to spend some quality time with Layla," she says of her 3-year-old daughter. "I didn't get to do that with my other kids. So I took about a year and a half off and stayed home with her. I'm glad I did it." She returned this year with the self-assured Tanya.
Kids aren't the only personal reason stars have to duck the limelight for a while. One reason SHeDAISY fans wound up cooling their heels for almost three years waiting for the follow-up to the platinum THE WHOLE SHeBANG was that head songwriter Kristyn Osborn was enduring a divorce, and needed time to sort out her personal life and clear her head.
But the sisterly trio is also a good example of music taking a long time simply because it takes a long time - the complex sounds of this year's Knock On The Sky required time and trouble to piece together. "People kept asking, 'Where's the new record?'" says Kassidy Osborn. "But we didn't get tired of hearing it, because that meant people wanted it. We just said, 'Be patient! It's on its way.'"
Keith Urban was another star who was determined not to let the world in on his sophomore effort until it was really, truly ready to be heard. That's a big reason why Keith's self-titled debut saw daylight in 1999 and his new Golden Road wasn't ready until this October. "I wasn't dawdling," he promises. "I wasn't just messing around."
And Keith doesn't necessarily think the wait is a bad thing for stars or fans, who are now hearing an album that's had a lot more thought and care put into it than would have been possible if it had been cranked out quickly.
"I think three years is a good length of time," he says. "I don't want to put a record out every year. I couldn't tour, live and write about the living."