LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Country trio the Dixie Chicks, the darlings of Nashville until their singer criticized President Bush three years ago, opened at No. 1 on the U.S. charts on Wednesday with their first studio album since then, but sales were sharply lower. "Taking The Long Way," their third chart-topper, sold 525,000 copies in the week ended May 28, according to tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan. The figure ranks as one of the biggest openings of the year, and exceeds industry expectations by more than 100,000 copies. But it paled against the 780,000 copies that their last studio release, "Home," sold during its first week in August 2002. It spent three weeks at No. 1, and has sold 5.8 million copies to date. In April another country trio, Rascal Flatts, opened at No. 1 with 722,000 copies of its new album. The lower sales for the new Dixie Chicks album were not unexpected given that country radio is largely ignoring the Texans. The first single, the defiant "Not Ready To Make Nice," stalled at No. 36 on Billboard magazine's Hot Country Songs chart. On the other hand, the trio has garnered plenty of attention in the mainstream media, with a Time magazine cover story, and a segment on CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes." All the attention -- or lack thereof -- stems from a throwaway comment made by singer Natalie Maines during a London concert in March 2003. She told the crowd that the band was embarrassed to come from the same state as Bush. If one critic had not mentioned it in his review, she might have gotten away with it, but it quickly escalated into a major incident. Radio stations stopped playing their songs and organized public destructions of their discs, sales slumped, death threats ensued, and country stars like Toby Keith bashed them. The women have largely laid low in the past few years to focus on their expanding families, and recording the new album in Los Angeles with rock producer Rick Rubin. At this stage, it's possible the Dixie Chicks are abandoning their country music base, rather than the other way around. Rubin is best known for his work with funk-rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who had ruled the charts for the previous two weeks, and with deceased Nashville renegade Johnny Cash. "I'd rather have a smaller following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith," Dixie Chick Martie Maguire told Time. We don't want those kinds of fans." As for their other albums, their 1998 debut, "Wide Open Spaces," peaked at No. 4 a year after its release, and has sold 8.5 million copies. Their 1999 follow-up, "Fly," opened at No. 1 with 341,000 copies and has sold 8.2 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. DOHHHH SHUT UP AND SING!