Album Review: Court Yard Hounds – Court Yard Hounds

Blake Boldt | May 3rd, 2010

court-yard-hounds-album-reviewMartie Maguire and Emily Robison, two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks, have secured their place as one of the premier family collaborations in country music history. With livewire lead singer Natalie Maines at the helm, the Chicks emerged as the dominant creative and commercial force on Music Row at the turn of the century.

Now the sisters are doing it for themselves. Maines has taken a lengthy sabbatical after the trio’s polarizing 2006 album Taking the Long Way, an aggressive riposte at the trio’s harshest critics after their infamous Bush-bashing incident. Her bandmates have undergone a makeover as the Court Yard Hounds, a name drawn from the best-selling novel, City of Thieves. Court Yard Hounds is a simple grace note, a triumph of spirit and song that bodes well for their future as a duo. The pair spell out their everyday dramas across broad, acoustic textures, blending ’70s Cali rock with coffeehouse folk. Though the album doesn’t have the instant impact of their earlier work, the wistful harmonies are a sweetly subtle pleasure.

Robison steps up as the duo’s principal singer, and her plaintive wail–a neat cross between Sheryl Crow and Shawn Colvin–sounds like a relic from the early Lilith Fair years. She sings with an aching romanticism, twisting simple, straightforward melodies around evocative stories. There are no cheap gimmicks or cheeky lines on Hounds; the mood is, for the most part, brooding and based largely on Robison’s divorce from Lone Star singer-songwriter Charlie Robison two years ago.

In Texas, the Hounds have found their muse. The haunting opener, “Skyline”–inspired by the view from Robison’s San Antonio loft–begins with Maguire’s lilting fiddle and an emotional bulldozer: “What am I doing here in such a lonely place?” For the next eleven tracks, Robison searches far and wide for her answer, tying stitches on her rough-and-tumble heart as she goes. Longing to be carefree, she heads towards the gulf shore on “Coast” where “nothing ever seems to matter.” On the gentle valentine “April’s Love,” her southern gal is matched up with a northern boy played sharply by Jakob Dylan. Robison strikes an oddly hopeful chord though their long-distance love affair is ill-fated.

The Hounds have equal success when turning their attentions outward. Their most emotionally charged offering is a gripping piece of social commentary called “Ain’t No Son,” led with a nifty banjo-driven intro. The vicious reply of a father lashing out against his newly-out son, it storms along with the help of a swelling electric guitar. The man’s bigoted views boil over into an angry standoff: “Don’t you know I can’t show my face in this town?” It’s a song for the outcast, a role that Robison and Maguire know all too well.

More joyful songs like “Delight (Something New Under the Sun)” and “Fairytale” provide a brief respite, but for the Hounds, any happiness is often short-lived. Robison finds momentary bliss on “Fear of Wasted Time” as she watches her children sleeping. Though Hounds comes to a rest soon after, she does not. “The feeling’s very strange,” she sighs, “I’m waiting for the pain.”

3.5 Stars

2 Pings

  1. [...] want to be intimidated. I broke that rule this week and regretted it, because Blake Boldt’s review of the Court Yard Hounds (a Dixie Chicks side project) over at The 9513 is really excellent. So is [...]
  2. [...] The 9513’s album review: “Robison steps up as the duo’s principal singer, and her plaintive wail–a neat [...]
  1. J.R. Journey
    May 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

    For the most part, and to my ears anyway, this falls short of anything the sisters recorded with Natalie Maines. But as a whole and standing alone, I find the album to be pleasing listen and a excellent set of country music, even if it’s a bit loud at times.

    My favorite tracks so far are ‘Skyline’, ‘Ain’t No Son’, and ‘I Miss You’.

  2. Dusty
    May 3, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I personally did not like this album. I found it a little too mellow for my taste. I think that track 12 was indeed “wasted time” for them when they made this cd. I do wish them the best of luck and hopefully next time we’ll be able to have Natalie Maines back as lead singer.

  3. Stormy
    May 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    You should really base your buying of this album more on whether or not you like Sheryl Crow and less on whether or not you like The Dixie Chicks.

  4. Rick
    May 3, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Stormy, I’ll base my decision NOT to buy on both! (lol)

    Hey, if these gals start making frequent public statements bashing Bush and blaming all of Odumbo’s current policy failures on Bushie, they could be up for a Grammy next year! WOW!…(lol)

  5. Stormy
    May 3, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Rick: Near as I can tell you don’t buy any music anyway.

  6. Chris N.
    May 3, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    “Bushie”? What is he, your snuggle buddy?

  7. Rick
    May 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Chris, I consider Bushie more of a hunting buddy type. Now Vera Baker on the other hand truly is a “snuggle buddy”! Just ask Michelle Odumbo who had Vera exiled to Martinique when she found out her hubby and Vera were having an affair back during both his senatorial and presidential campaigns! Turns out Vera is still on the Chicago City payroll, so talk about “hush money”. Nothing like having an unfaithful cheater as president of the US, although democrats and liberals showed with Bill Clinton they celebrate such moral failings! That’s just freakin awesome!

    Stormy, I do buy a fair amount of music. Its just that most of it is used CDs or advance copies I can pick up on the cheap. Although I have started buying download singles from Amazon now on new songs I really like! There has been about three of those so far this year…

  8. Susan
    May 4, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Must everything be turned into a political debate?
    Get over it already. Jeeze.
    It’s a nice album, not great, but good.
    Of course it’s a different sound without Natalie singing. Different sound musically and vocally. I believe that was their intention.

  9. Leeann Ward
    May 4, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    I disagree with Dusty. “Wasted Time” is one of my favorites on the album so far. The mellow production reminds me of something that Sam Phillips might do. I’m really enjoying this album, though it didn’t have much chance of trumping the Chicks finest moments for me. It’s a pleasant surprise.

  10. Chris N.
    May 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    “Hunting buddy,” eh? How romantic.
    Careful, if he learned how to hunt from Cheney you’re likely to come back without a face.

  11. Steve M.
    May 4, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I have heard a quite a bit of this album on XM, and while the music and lyrics are fine, I don’t think either sister has the voice to be a lead singer.

  12. Dan
    May 19, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Hmm i like “see you in the spring” a lot it sounds so much like Sheryl Crow i had to check the credits to see if she was on there.

  13. Tony
    May 19, 2010 at 11:43 am

    What is a Dixie Chick?

  14. Ben Foster
    May 19, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I had a feeling this album would be worth checking out. I still miss Natalie, but these sisters sure have made some great music on their own. Read my review of “The Coast” at

  15. Jamie
    May 19, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I found it decent for what it is. There’s an occasional time and a place for this type of sound in my life.

  16. Jenny
    May 24, 2010 at 10:33 am

    This is one of the best albums I have heard in YEARS. Love it. As a huge fan of the Dixie Chicks (both politically and musically) as well as Sheryl Crow and that type of genre, I couldn’t be happier with this album. I was actually surprised since I tend to like mostly country (and I wouldn’t call this country) with a few Sheryl Crow, Jewel, etc. (but I am really picky there) I love every song on this album.

    Just a small correction – the Jakob Dylon song is “See you in the spring”, not “April Love”

  17. Sarah
    March 2, 2011 at 3:04 am

    I think everyone’s problem here is the fact that you are all comparing this album and the Court Yard Hounds to the Dixie Chicks.
    The fact that this is a side project under a different name means that the girls were obviously intending to do something completely different to the Dixie Chicks.
    I think this album is great, I love the mellow tone, its really good to chill to, and the girls are great in the Dixie Chicks and great as the Court Yard Hounds as well.
    Compared to most of the crap that is out on the market at the moment these songs are real and speak loads to me, even with their simple lyrics.

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