Scenes from SXSW
Two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks take wing (with a little help from Jakob Dylan)
The crowd started gathering early for the Americana Music Association’s South by Southwest (SXSW) showcase Thursday night at Antone’s Nightclub. Fans, including Matthew McConaughey, sporting a black leather jacket and newsboy cap, jammed into the venerable Austin music landmark to see a line-up that included Jim Lauderdale, Elizabeth Cook, Houston’s own Hayes Carll, and the Court Yard Hounds, the side project of sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks.
It’s been a while since the Chicks’ Taking The Long Way took the 2007 Grammys by storm, and Maguire and Robison have clearly been eager to get back in action. The Court Yard Hounds take their name from a fictional book-within-a-book in the novel City of Thieves by David Benioff. As Robison points out on the group’s Web site, they wanted to highlight “how inspiration comes and goes. The idea is that there are seasons of talent, and at some point it’s gonna leave you, so you have to make the most of it when you are inspired.”
Playing almost entirely new music from their upcoming CD, The Courtyard Hounds (due out May 4), the band featured the sisters’ considerable skills on fiddle, Dobro and banjo. While the bluegrass instrumentation and inspiration were evident, the set was also a rockin' affair, with new songs “Miss You,” “Didn’t Make A Sound,” “Gracefully,” “The Coast” and “Then Again.” Most of the songs are personal, reflecting the strong influence of Robison’s divorce from singer/songwriter Charlie Robison. She took the lead on most of the vocals, with gorgeous sisterly harmonies punctuating throughout.
Near the end of the set, Jakob Dylan joined the sisters for the duet “See You In The Spring,” which he sings with Robison on the album. He and Robison then launched into a delightfully ragged cover of Rod Stewart’s “You Wear It Well.” Dylan needed a little help from a crib sheet to make it through a verse or two, but the ultimate result was pure magic.
The Dixie Chicks are by no means over, having recently announced a short summer tour with the Eagles. But Maguire and Robison plan Court Yard Hounds gigs before and after the tour, serving notice that this “side project” may be here to stay.