There is a lot of baggage surrounding The Court Yard Hounds self-titled new release. Of course, the spectra of the Dixie Chicks always looms closely overhead. Emily Robison, who penned most of the tracks on the album, recently divorced her husband, singer/songwriter Charlie Robison. Charlie wrote and released his own album dealing with their separation last year. Emily Robison herself has admitted that many of the songs on this album were written in response to the dissolution of her marriage. It is tempting to listen to this album through the filter of those two events. Intimately, however, the best thing that the listener can do is relate to the music based on their own experience. Like the best intensely personal music, these songs transcend the original stories and reach the individual experiences in all of us.
Those looking for a return to the Bluegrass and Western days of yore on this album will be disappointed. This is fairly straightforward Lilith Fair pop-rock, with a few country instrumentations. Fairytale sounds like it could have been pulled straight from The Globe Sessions, Sheryl Crow’s 1998 masterpiece. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the intimate production and instrumentation reflect the nature of the music. On the lone Martie McGuire penned tune she sings “we settled like oil and water/I just want to smile again, you want to drown in the bottle” before begging “so let me go gracefully.” But all is not heartbreak and the wrecks of dead relationships on this album. “Ain’t No Son” is a seething ballad about son coming out to a dad who disowns him. “Then Again” is about a woman trying to come to terms with her lack of identity. “Fear of Wasted Time” brings the album to a close with a murmured “I was raising Cain, now I’m razing babies.”
Natalie Maines has long been the polarizing figure in The Dixie Chicks. She was credited both with their political sentiments and with their drifting away from mainstream country and on to something else. Emily was the quiet one and Martie was the nice one, and both were good old fashioned, bluegrass girls. Those who watched closely knew better. Emily was the experimental, the one as likely to be listening to Sarah McLachlan as Patsy Cline. The one who absorbed everything they say on Lilith Fair and seemed to want to use it in their music. In their debut, The Court Yard Hounds made a nearly perfect Emily album.
You can support the Court Yard Hounds by purchasing the physical CD at Amazon.