- Court Yard Hounds: Flying the coop
In early 2007, the Dixie Chicks were, as one of their songs put it, on “top of the world.” They just won Grammys for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year, and they were well-earned — especially since the trio had angered many of their original country fans after singer Natalie Maines made an infamous comment about President Bush onstage in 2003. If the world’s biggest-selling female group ever deserved to take a break, the time was right.
But that’s easier said than done, particularly if you’ve been playing music your whole life. The other two Dixie Chicks — sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire — started playing together when they were five years old. By their early teens, they were in a bluegrass band and formed the Dixie Chicks before Robison, the younger one, reached 20.
After the group’s post-Grammy break stretched past a year, Robison started getting antsy. “Taking that long of time off, I felt a little lost,” she admits. “I was really just trying to find out what I was going to do with the talent I have.”
Robison had just gone through a divorce from singer-songwriter Charlie Robison and discovered it was a fertile source for songs. Knowing that Maines wasn’t ready to get the Chicks back together, Robison considered pitching her new songs to other singers. She sent a batch of them to her sister, who told her they were too good to hand over to someone else. So they decided to work on the songs and see what happened. “It was a nice accident that she had just finished building an amazing studio at her house,” says Robison. “All the pieces just kinda fell together.”
They named themselves the Court Yard Hounds, taken from David Benioff’s novel City of Thieves, which refers to talent as a “fanatical mistress.” The recording, which took place over several months last year, was totally unlike pressure-packed Dixie Chicks sessions. “It was definitely more relaxed,” says Robison.
(For the record, the Dixie Chicks are still around. Earlier this summer, they opened for the Eagles on a short tour. “It was just like old-home week,” says Robison.)