With the Dixie Chicks on hiatus and her marriage at an end, Emily Robison needed a creative outlet. She found it in a batch of songs that started as a solo project but turned into the Court Yard Hounds with her sister, Martie Maguire.
"Court Yard Hounds" (Columbia) walks the same folk-rock ground that the last Chicks album did, but Robison's take is more peaceful-easy-feeling than Natalie Maines. She soothes like Suzanne Vega on "Skyline" and adopts the breezy feel of Shawn Colvin on "The Coast." The long-distance love affair of "See You in Spring," a duet with Jakob Dylan, would be equally at home next to "Blue Bayou"-era Linda Ronstadt or "Love Story"-era Taylor Swift.
But that doesn't mean that the pair doesn't tackle thornier issues. Robison gets riled up on "Ain't No Son," a rocking, wrenching tale of a father who disowns his son and then regrets it.
While "April's Love" offers a simple, straightforward acoustic portrait of a breakup, "It Didn't Make a Sound" is a clever embodiment of its complexities. The song veers into classic country, easing the pain with some sweet harmonies and rollicking piano riffs, which offer her enough comfort to declare, "Go ahead and leave me darling, you won't ever see me crying," as the fiddles and the guitars carry her off on the outro.
"Court Yard Hounds" should provide Robison and Maguire with some much-deserved respect as songwriters and singers. Hopefully, it provides Robison with some solace as well.
COURT YARD HOUNDS
THE GRADE B