Three years on from Court Yard Hounds' eponymous debut, Natalie Maines had returned from her self-imposed silence, touring with Emily Robinson and Martie Maguire as the Dixie Chicks in both 2010 and 2013, but Maines showed no interest in recording new material (her 2013 solo debut largely consisted of covers). Robinson and Maguire, in contrast, are very committed to moving forward via Court Yard Hounds, writing a set of 11 new songs -- many penned with Martin Strayer -- and working once again with producer Jim Scott on Amelita, their 2013 sequel to their 2010 debut. Things have changed in Court Yard Hounds' inner world -- notably, Robinson divorced between the two CYH records -- and that's reflected within the very sound of Amelita, which is lighter and livelier than the carefully considered debut.
If you were to play a word association game with me, and said “Dixie Chicks”, my response would be “controversy”. It seems like the Dixie Chicks are a firebrand for doing provocative things, the most memorable being dissing former US president George W. Bush and the then-looming war in Iraq in concert, a move that made many a Red State fan tear up their posters and burn their albums in disbelief.
Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison are now on their second post-Dixie Chicks album (the Texan trio have been "on hiatus" since 2008) and have moved away from that band's kitschy, country charms and into a more folk-inflected sound. It's more tasteful, maybe, whatever that means, but it's also a little boring and lacking in bite. This record is so blandly agreeable and sunny that it seems almost like self-parody that its first track should be called Sunshine.
You could understand if Emily Robison and Martie Maguire sound a bit stressed on their second album as Court Yard Hounds. When this Texas-based sister duo released its self-titled debut in 2010, it was a low-key side project, a way to keep busy until Natalie Maines -- Robison and Maguire's bandmate in the Dixie Chicks -- felt ready to return to that platinum-selling country group. This is a modal window.
The song that opens “Amelita” (Columbia) — the second album by Court Yard Hounds, due out on Tuesday — is “Sunshine,” a honey-dipped poison dart aimed at the sort of person who rains on every parade. “Tonight you’ll grace us all with your inner presence,” Emily Robison sings over ….
Court Yard Hounds Amelita (Columbia) The Dixie Chicks' amicable but indefinite hiatus hasn't ruled out the occasional reunion, but despite the not-so-bad blood, competition lurks. Two months after frontwoman Natalie Maines released her brooding solo debut, sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire counter with saccharine sophomore effort Amelita. As their side project begins to feel more like a full-time gig, the local duo offers unchecked buoyancy, tapping a top-down aesthetic while abandoning the curmudgeon tendencies that surfaced in the Chicks.