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The debut album from two of the most recognizable side-women in music. Martie Maguire and Emily Robison of The Dixie Chicks take center stage as the Court Yard Hounds. This 12 track self-titled release was written by Robison during a dark time in her life. Featuring a duet with Jakob Dylan on a tale of a star-crossed couple from the northernmost and southernmost parts of the country who find their biggest obstacle is accepting each other's climate change.
Personnel: Emily Robison (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, resonator guitar, dobro, banjo, pump organ); Audley Freed (acoustic guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar); Martin Strayer (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano); Lloyd Maines (steel guitar, dobro, mandolin); Greg Leisz (steel guitar); Jerry Holmes (autoharp); Martie Maguire (mandolin, fiddle, viola); Brian Standefer (cello); Tom Hale (French horn); Mike Finnigan (piano); Glen Fukanaga (acoustic bass); Pat Manske, Don Heffington (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Jim Scott .
Recording information: HEK Studio, Austin, TX; Plyrz Studio, Valencia, CA.
Photographer: Frank Ockenfels.
With Natalie Maines uninterested in recording a new Dixie Chicks album nearly five years after the last, sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire decided to abandon her as a temporary measure: they formed the side project Court Yard Hounds, releasing an eponymous album in May of 2010. Co-produced by Jim Scott, who mixed Taking the Long Way, it sounds like the Dixie Chicks minus Natalie: softer, sweeter, lacking a sense of surprise, but not unpleasantly so. If anything, there may be a touch too much pleasantness in the Court Yard Hounds, with the record often gently swaying to acoustic instrumentation and relaxing on its smooth surfaces. When guitars are cranked up, as they are on "Ain't No Son," Robison is almost buried underneath their steady thump, which isn't the fault of the production: she's too sweet a presence to cut through thick production. In other words, she lacks Maines' feistiness, something integral to the Dixie Chicks' crossover, but she's a consummate pro, possessing exceptional taste, sturdy songwriting skills, and the status to hire the very best studio musicians, not to mention having Jakob Dylan drop in for a duet on "See You in the Spring." Perhaps the results are predictable, but they are satisfying, and it's better to have new music from this duo than none at all. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Rolling Stone (p.66) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Robison, who wrote most of the songs, has a way with a hook -- and those harmonies make even the weepiest weepers go down smooth."
Entertainment Weekly (p.75) - "Quiet cuts like 'Skyline' emphasize their down-home vocals....'The Coast' is sunny pop..." -- Grade: B
Billboard (p.32) - "Robison and Maguire prove capable of crafting galloping, catchy choruses for such songs as 'The Coast,' 'Ain't No Son,' 'It Didn't Make a Sound' and 'I Miss You.'"
Paste (magazine) (p.85) - "[T]he album reaches a poignant destination in the closer 'Fear of Wasted Time,' an ode to the joys and rewards of mother- and sisterhood."
Uncut (magazine) (p.79) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he Chicks' country influences are replaced by crisp, Aimee Mann-style pop, and occasional wafts of dirty Southern rock."
Court Yard HoundsStrictly speaking, it's only a few feet from stage left or stage right to the center spotlight. But it took Martie Maguire and Emily Robison a couple of decades to move those couple of yards. As the mainstays of the Dixie Chicks since they formed the group in 1989, the sisters have been familiar faces to many millions of fans, yet just a little mysterious in that familiarity, content as they were to cede the lead vocalist position and remain music's most recognizable "sidewomen." Chicks fans couldn't help but hear those ever-present harmonies and wonder if Emily and Martie might ever come out from hiding in plain sight.That's just what they've done in their newly hatched incarnation as Court Yard Hounds, with a gorgeously assured debut album that has the siblings sounding like they've been fearless frontwomen all their lives. Is this band a side project? They can live with that label. Or something permanent? Yes, that, too.Robison and Maguire could no sooner take an indefinite vacation from music than they could from being related. So as the mother band's hiatus grew into a longer vacation than anyone originally anticipated, "dormant" began to equal "torment" for these two working musicians. The Dixie Chicks were last seen triumphing at the Grammys in early 2007, winning the exceedingly rare trifecta of album, record, and song of the year for Taking the Long Way and its flagship single "Not Ready to Make Nice." Something else they weren't ready to do was make records or tour again, at least for a long while, as it turned out. All three Chicks enjoyed family time away from the media glare-but after a while Maguire and Robison felt refreshed and rarin' to go, which still left them one singer short of a quorum. The usually bold Maines' reticence to put herself through the grind again had the effect of pushing her slightly shyer bandmates out of the nest.When fans see Maguire and Robison from now on, whether they're at side or center stage, it'll be with a greater sense of the individual personalities of the sisters who've seemed ubiquitous, yet just a little elusive for so many years. Their easy smiles and rapport with fans from the front rows to the rafters have gotten them pegged as "the friendly ones," but the material on Court Yard Hounds proves them as complex as they are approachable.And not only was it worth the wait, this flowering simply had to wait. "I don't think I could have done this five or ten years ago with Martie," Emily affirms. "I would have been too timid, too shy, too 'Oh no, I can't do that.' Now, I think, if some people don't like it, that's fine." No lap dogs here: Court Yard Hounds are ready to get out and work it. "Even if we have just 10 percent of the people who reacted to us before, or only new fans, whatever it is?we can make something of that."