Court Yard Hounds, "Court Yard Hounds"

81 Billboard Rating

The first words out of Emily Robison's mouth--"What am I doing here?"--are certainly appropriate for Court Yard Hounds' self-titled debut. Sister duo Robison and Martie Maguire might have confused a few fans by spinning off from their usual Dixie Chicks gig. But that will likely stop once they get an earful of the familiar, harmony-laden pop-country hybrid on this 12-song set. But that's not to say "Court Yard Hounds" simply recasts the Dixie Chicks' melodic virtues. For starters, Robison, who sings lead on 11 of the tracks, is a subtler vocalist and lyricist than her absent bandmate Natalie Maines. 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." The sibling duo mines a bit of psychedelia on the track "Delight (Something New Under the Sun)" and blues flavors for the Sheryl Crow-like "Then Again," while Maguire's richly arranged "Gracefully" and the rootsy "See You in the Spring" (a duet with Jakob Dylan) offer well-deployed changes of pace. --Gary Graff