Old Chicks, new tricks

Emily Robison and Martie Maguire (Associated Press)
Emily Robison and Martie Maguire (Associated Press)

After a comeback including another best-selling album, a Grammy sweep and a worldwide tour, the Dixie Chicks went on hiatus.

“I needed that year,” Martie Maguire, the group’s fiddle player, says of the decision to step away from the limelight in 2006. “We were exhausted.”

She and sister Emily Robison had personal matters to attend to. Maguire was trying to have another baby through in-vitro fertilization (she had a third child in 2008 after enduring a miscarriage), while Robison and her musician husband, Charles Robison, ended their marriage after nine years and three children.

After awhile, the sisters were ready to make music, but lead singer Natalie Maines wasn’t.

Their solution: a new duo, the Court Yard Hounds, using songs Robison recorded after her breakup. Their self-titled debut was released last week.

When Robison, 37, started writing the songs, she had Maines in mind.

“I spent a good year and a half trying to get Natalie to do what my vision was,” she says. “We even went in to cut a song that was supposed to be for a movie and it didn’t work out.”

She called Maguire for suggestions on another singer. But Maguire didn’t want Robison to let someone else sing her story.

Maguire, 40, who had been recording an album of fiddle tunes for children, acknowledges she saw an opportunity for herself.

“I figured I’d at least get a shot to audition for the band,” she says, as the pair dissolve into laughter.

It’s a somewhat different musical dynamic. The Court Yard Hounds’ music is more subdued than the Chicks, with Robison relying more on emotion than sheer vocal strength.

Now they’ll have to start recalling their sound with the Chicks: The band starts a summer tour June 8 with the Eagles (and Keith Urban on some dates).

That might even lead to another Chicks album. But the sisters don’t consider the Court Yard Hounds a hiatus project, but their group outside the Chicks.

“I think as we make more and more records, (we’ll) just find our own identity,” says Maguire. “It takes time.”

The birthday bunch

Newsman Mike Wallace is 92. Actor Albert Finney is 74. Singer Tommy Roe is 68. Actress Candice Bergen is 64. Singer Billy Joel is 61. Actor John Corbett is 49. Rapper Ghostface Killah (Wu-Tang Clan) is 40. Actress Rosario Dawson is 31.

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