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Album review: Court Yard Hounds' self-titled debut

COURT_YARD_HOUNDS_240_ With the Dixie Chicks on hiatus, sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire decided to go it as a duo while singer Natalie Maines extends her vacation from the recording studio. As the Court Yard Hounds, Robison and Maguire cover similar emotional territory — romance, heartbreak, social justice — but in more pop-driven musical settings.

There are still healthy doses of fiddle, banjo and steel guitar, but because Robison, who handles the lead vocals, has a kinder, gentler voice than her edgy Chicks partner Maines, the sound is more Sheryl Crow and, on occasion, the girl-group-with-a-drawl style of — dare we say it — Skeeter Davis.

At its most caustic, this debut can sound like the other shoe dropping on the divorce between Robison and roots musician Charlie Robison, who gave his less-than-charitable side of the story last year on his "Beautiful Day" album. "See You In the Spring," an engagingly tense duet with Jakob Dylan, serves up a disjunctive dialogue between two people who obviously aren't going to keep it together. "Fairytale" says a melancholy farewell to happily ever after, while "Gracefully" says in no uncertain terms "We're no good together/We settle like oil and water."

Robison wrote or co-wrote all the songs, except for Maguire's "Gracefully," and she's more intriguing when working in third-person situations such as "Ain't No Son," a plea from a guy who is gay and looking unsuccessfully for understanding from an intransigent parent. Things also pick up in "The Coast," a celebration of finding a sense of peace in a time of strife.

The songs and the sentiments ring of honest emotion, but not consistently of inspired lyric writing, and for all the well-considered inner reflection, you wish these Hounds had channeled a bit more of Maines' bark and bite.

— Randy Lewis

Court Yard Hounds
"Court Yard Hounds"
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

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Comments () | Archives (3)

You guys are all the same... just bought this record, and it is a 10 out of 4 stars!! These sisters are so much more talented than that barky bitchy singer they used to have.. this is a classic record.. sounds amazing.. not slick.. sounds like a band.. Rock on CYH

real pretty. a softer part indigo girls / part cheryl crow sound.

I don't know about the music on the album and have never been a big Dixie Chicks fan, but that is one of the most unattractive album covers of all time. Could they make those women look any worse? They're certainly not unattractive people when you see them on TV. With CD sales in the tank, that's not good marketing.


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