Court Yard Hounds Play for Keeps on 'Amelita': This Ain't No 'Side Project'

Court Yard Hounds

Martie Maguire casts doubt on future Dixie Chicks albums: "I really learned to kind of let go, and I'm so happy where everything is right now"

On its second album, Emily Robison says, Court Yard Hounds "felt like a band."

Robison and her sister and Dixie Chicks bandmate Martie Maguire release "Amelita," their sophomore set as Court Yard Hounds, on July 16, following the duo's self-titled 2010 debut. The two promised the group would be a going concern back then, but many viewed it, initially, as a side project while the Dixie Chicks were on hiatus. Now they're hoping "Amelita" dispels any notions that the Hounds aren't for keeps.

"We feel like we've toured it and we have our own distinct sound," Robison tells Billboard. "We never felt like it was a side project; I think other people put it in those terms. Once you go to your sophomore album, it means a lot to us. It not only means solidifying we are a band separate and just as important in our minds as our previous mothership band, but it's also a way to kind of solidify the sound of who we are and dive into some new ideas while at the same time staying true to tour core sound."

Maguire concurs that "all those first-album kind of jitters weren't there this time" and adds that after "Court Yard Hounds" she and Robison "figured out what really worked and what we wanted to continue and then expand upon that." But "Amelita" is different from its predecessor in that "Court Yard Hounds" came into being from songs Robison was writing about her 2008 divorce from Charlie Robison, and she therefore dominated the debut. Maguire, who went through her own divorce between albums, had a greater role for "Amelita," including singing lead on two of the tracks, "Gets You Down" and "A Guy Like You."

"Yeah, for sure, it really felt like we were a team," Maguire says. "We each have our own strengths and rely on each other. It feels good when Emily comes to me and says, 'I'm stuck' or 'What do you think? Is this worth pursuing?' It made me feel good 'cause I do have a lot of respect for her as a songwriter."

Robison -- who's now married to Hounds guitarist and co-writer Martin Strayer -- acknowledges that "the last time, people pinned it as 'the divorce album,' and, yes, a lot of the songs I'd written going through my divorce, so there was very much a thematic kind of thing to it. But this (album) felt like an I've broken those chains, rearview mirror, not looking back kind of thing. There more being open to new ideas and observing other people's lives as opposed to being so centered to what was going on in my life. I think it's made for a lot more of a fun, happy album."

The Hounds will be taking "Amelita" on the road for select dates starting August 1 in Fargo, N.D., and including stops at Lollapalooza August 3 in Chicago, LouFest during September in St. Louis and the Austin City Limits Music Festival during October. "Because we have seven kids between us, we have to tour smart and not necessarily a lot," Robison explains. "We have a lot of promo and radio stuff, mixing that up with important shows." The group may also open some arena dates for the Zac Brown Band this fall. 

The Dixie Chicks, meanwhile, played one more show, at the Craven Country Jamboree on July 13 in Saskatoon. Robison and Maguire say the trio is on good terms, and both praise singer Natalie Maines' new solo album "Mother," but nobody's holding their breath for a follow-up to the group's Grammy Award-winning 2006 release "Taking the Long Way."

"I've always hoped that we would become a recording entity again, but I don't know," Maguire says. "I really learned to kind of let go, and I'm so happy where everything is right now. I'm so glad Natalie branched out and felt like she wanted to sing again and make a record; I think it's actually made her more willing to play Dixie Chicks shows. We realized a long time ago, Emily and I, we couldn't push her too hard, and we can't push each other too hard. You've got to live your life first and do your job second. The older I get the more laid back I am about whatever happens, happens."