Album Review: Court Yard Hounds – Court Yard Hounds
Martie 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.”
- luckyoldsun: I made it through a minute of that "Girl In a Country Song Video." Man, that sucks.
- lindsay thomas: Wife and I saw these guys last Thursday night, (7-24-14) at the Ryman in Nashville. What a show. …
- Donald: I'm guessing that is meant to read 're-release' Detroit to Wheeling, as the double album originally appeared on Pinecastle in …
- Michael A.: Has anyone else had a difficult time trying to get the free download from the Reba site?
- Dave D.: I can't believe that I never saw the Willie Nelson Monk episode - and it was a Sharona episode, as …
- nm: Taylor Swift was on CSI once. Not only was Steve Earle on The Wire, in one episode Omar quoted him about …
- Barry Mazor: It's only a slight stretch to recall when Jimmy Dean met James Bond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbwDGtj84YY
- Arlene: I suspect you'll also be including an episode of L.A. Law....
- luckyoldsun: The Johnny Cash episode was the one Columbo case where you really felt "the b--- had it coming."
- A.B.: Janice - I saw that too and sent him a Tweet about it.