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Album Review

Court Yard Hounds, 'Court Yard Hounds'

May 10, 2010

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Court Yard Hounds are sisters and Dixie Chicks principals Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, who decided to pursue this project while Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines remains on an extended hiatus. And apparently, when you extract Maines from the Chicks, what you get is Sheryl Crow with an extra dollop of fiddle and banjo. That’s the lingering impression left by this debut, from the songs — ear candy like “The Coast,’’ the roots-flecked vibe of “See You in the Spring’’ — to, especially, the uncanny resemblance of Robison’s singing voice to that of Ms. Crow. To some extent, Robison has stepped into Maines’s frontwoman shoes: She wrote or cowrote all but one of the songs and sings all but that one, too. Her focus, on introspective ruminations and the vagaries of relationships, is relentlessly earnest. And as well-played as the music can be, lyrically it’s a very bumpy ride. For every interesting turn — the conceit informing “See You in the Spring,’’ for example — there’s the banality (amplified by repetition) of lines like “I miss you/ I can’t wait to kiss you.’’ In that respect at least, these hounds don’t quite hunt. (Out now) STUART MUNRO

ESSENTIAL “Delight (Something New Under the Sun)’’