Court Yard Hounds - Amelita
Following Natalie Maines' debut solo album earlier this year, now comes the other two thirds of the Dixie Chicks - Emily Robison and Martie Maguire. Releasing their second album as Court Yard Hounds, they'll be hoping that Amelita does better than their 2010 debut and its lukewarm reviews and average sales (at least by the standards set in their former country-rock lives). Here Robison takes the majority of lead vocals with writing duties shared equally. Partnering with product Jim Scott and guitarist Martin Strayer for the second time there’s a confidence and new found fun on show that can only come as the two sisters feel settled in their new guise.
That fun and lightness of touch is immediately apparent on ‘Sunshine’, the lead single. It’s a foot tapping, bouncy number, with cheery lyrics about a doleful other half (“...you always find a way to bring me down when I feel fine, we call you Sunshine”). Then ‘Amelita’ comes across all Beatles-like, think Rubber Soul era. ‘The World Smiles’ is the first of their sweeter tunes; a little twee, it's like something from a US teen drama, but a grower and rather charming, while ‘Aimless Upward’ and ‘Divided’ are softer and more thoughtful. One of the most enjoyable tunes is ‘A Guy Like You’, a laconic love song, dreaming of a relationship with no stress. ‘Rock All Night’ which, along with ‘Watch Your Step’, are no frills country-rock song - and great fun. ‘Phoebe’ ups the steel pedal guitar quota as the one out and out country track. With Maines’ excellent album already out in the wild, the quality and confidence of Amelita suggests that, despite a couple of upcoming US dates, maybe the Dixie Chicks are on more than a hiatus - and that really isn't a bad thing.