Album Review: Court Yard Hounds, Court Yard Hounds

Court Yard Hounds
Court Yard Hounds

I suppose this puts the “Natalie Maines dragged the other two Chicks away from their roots” theory to rest.

The debut album from Court Yard Hounds, the duo comprised of sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, is an adult pop affair.  This isn’t disappointing in its own right, being only a few degrees less country than the excellent Chicks album that preceded it, but what’s absent is both the urgency of that album’s material and Maines’ powerhouse delivery of it.

As on Taking the Long Way, the songwriting is done in-house, and the two sisters prove they are still quite adept with a pen. Some of the songs are as good as anything the Chicks have written or recorded. “Then Again” gets into the psyche of a self-destructive woman, while the stunning “Ain’t No Son” plays out like the prequel to “Top of the World”, with the narrator wreaking the havoc that he’d later rue upon his death.

But the album is hampered by playing down their strengths in favor of their weaknesses.  Where Maguire and Robison have always shined is on their instruments, and there simply isn’t much of a showcase of their virtuoso talents.  Long Way proved that they can stretch beyond their country and bluegrass roots, with the fierce fiddle on “Lubbock or Leave It” bordering on punk.   There’s no such adventuring here.

This wouldn’t matter as much if they were able to compensate at the mic, but they make the strange choice of downplaying their sisterly harmonies for a warmed-over variation of post-Globe Sessions Sheryl Crow. The songwriting is strong enough to make this an interesting listen, with genuine gems like “See You in the Spring”, “Gracefully”, and “It Didn’t Make a Sound”, and I’d love to see them do these songs in a live setting that’s less restrained.  But as it is, Court Yard Hounds plays more like a collection of lost demos than a cohesive album in its own right.


  1. I like the album quite a bit, though I’d choose having the Chicks back over another installment of the Hounds. While it’s certainly not as distinctive or as strong as Natalie’s, I like Emily’s voice. Also, I like to see that Emily writes so much for the album, even some stuff on her own. I always feel a deference towards artists who can at least write a couple songs on their own.

  2. I really like this album, but I think I like it more as a fan of Sheryl Crow than I do as a fan of the Dixie Chicks. Anyone approaching it with a Chicks hat on is probably going to be disappointed.

  3. I wouldn’t have even minded the Crow flavor if it had more of her earlier edge (Sheryl Crow and The Globe Sessions.) But Crow became very rambling and milquetoast for me after those albums, and the temerity of this set reminds me of Crow’s more recent work.

  4. I very much like this set, although it could stand to have a better lead vocalist than Emily.

    There was a reason that the Chix got Natalie Maines after Robin Lynn Macy left the group, and that was because neither of the sisters has a compelling voice

    The material on this set is very strong but you need to look past the vocals and rather wimpy production in order to appreciate the quality of the songs

  5. I guess I honorably disagree with the review here, because I do find it a very compelling listen–hardly country (in the Nashvillian sense of the term), but a very good mix of country, rock, pop, and folk influences. Emily and Martie may not be of the vocal strength of their in-limbo fellow Chick Natalie, but to me it’s significantly better than a lot of the stuff that’ll get played on the radio, country OR pop.

  6. I just listened to the whole album, and I really only liked (none really stood out for me, though) 5 songs out of 12 (I think).

    I did like their vocal performances and the music arrangements for most of the songs, but they just didn’t strike a chord with me.

    I guess it is hard to shift from the Chicks to the Hounds, but this album definatly was not one of the best I’ve ever heard, Chicks or otherwise.

  7. I admit, I pre-ordered this album b/c I’m anxious for a new Chicks cd. BUT, it grew on me. As a whole, it’s not as good as any of the previous albums, but it does have some stand out songs, of which you listed. And Emily’s actually a decent singer. True, she’s no Natalie, but she’s better than some others who shall remain nameless.

    Oh, and Kevin, I saw them live twice this past summer, and they’re TOTALLY better live! And when they break down with “Lil’ Jack Slade”, you cannot believe the reaction from the crowd. It’s electric.

  8. I forgot I posted to this…just wanted to add, I do hope they have more banjo and fiddle on their new upcoming album. Home was an awesome album in large part due to their musicianship.

    As an aside, has anyone else been watching the live feeds from them? The first had some technical issues, but the second was great! Don’t forget to tune in this coming Tuesday :)

  9. Guys, a nice Album “Court Yard Hounds”. All songs in the Album are nice and quite good. However, I miss my Angel Natalie. The black and white wall paper of the two chicks on the wall paper is Stunning. Hope, Court Yard Hounds will make these kind of albums few more. Thanks!!

  10. Despite what you say I do like the sound of the samples. If they have greater strengths then let’s hope they get a more empathetic management team before too long.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.