The future of the Dixie Chicks isn’t looking so bright, but Court Yard Hounds is certainly filling the void. The duo, comprised of Chicks co-founders Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, released its sophomore album, Amelita, this week. The collection not only shows a happier side of the Texas sisters, but also solidifies them as a band, and not just a side project.
While the Hounds’ 2010 self-titled debut was largely inspired by Robison’s divorce from country crooner Charlie Robison, Amelita is the product of more diverse songwriting inspiration. “I’ve been freed of all of those time-heals-everything kind of things,” says Robison. “Now, I’ve opened up to other ideas and ways of looking at life and the world. [Amelita is] not only a more hopeful album, but it’s more fun.”
The Texas-bred siblings wrote or co-wrote most songs on the new album and describe it as country meets adult alternative, meets adult contemporary. While their more organic sound is certainly a departure from the Dixie Chicks, an old memory from the superstar trio’s heyday is what inspired the title track, which is about underage prostitution.
“We were shooting the video [for the Chicks’ “Long Time Gone”] across from basically what was a brothel,” Maguire explains to CultureMap Austin. “Women were standing out in the doorways, and we were so naïve and we were going, ‘Why do all these women have their doors open?’”
Maguire, who takes over lead vocals from her little sister on two of the album’s 11 tracks, insists the Hounds’ sophomore disc reflects a stronger backbone. Starting over again after a multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-sweeping run as the Dixie Chicks was somewhat daunting, as they had to prove themselves again. But in the three years between Hounds albums, their musical confidence has skyrocketed.
“We’ve approached it differently because we felt like okay, we are a band,” says the fiddle player. “We aren’t just two ex-Dixie Chicks anymore, we’re a band and we like our sound and we’re going to continue to do this and hopefully get better at it, and share something new this time around.”
As for the Chicks, neither Maguire nor Robison will come right out and say they’re done, but they do warn to not hold your breath for new Dixie Chicks music anytime soon. Lead singer Natalie Maines released her own solo project, Mother, earlier this year and is busy touring in support of the project. And the Court Yard Hounds are quite content concentrating on their own venture – a musical refreshment after being with the Chicks since 1989.
Listen for Court Yard Hounds on our Americana station here.