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Court Yard Hounds at the Grammy Museum 5/10

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One Chick prefers roosting right now--at least that's the story behind the birth of the Court Yard Hounds-- two-thirds of the popular country-folk-pop trio the Dixie Chicks. The new side project by sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison allows the two to take center stage, which has been occupied for years by the dynamic (and opinionated) vocalist Natalie Maines.

Dixie Chicks fans flocked to the Grammy Museum for The Drop program, which allows an intimate crowd to hear musicians talk about their latest work and play a few tunes the before the album's released. Maguire and Robison were on hand to promote their self-titled debut, which takes its name from The Courtyard Hound--a book within a book by David Benioff (City of Thieves).

"Natalie was not ready to back into the studio," said Robison, who was just as candid about her divorce from country singer Charlie Robison as giving her "fertile ground" and lots of time alone to write music. "It's easier to write about dysfunction," she said. Also getting the itch to perform again was sister Maguire, who joked, that she couldn't let her sister get "all the royalties."

That leaves Maines the odd woman out. The trio had left the limelight after their massive Grammy wins in 2007 for the album Taking the Long Way (inspired in part by Maines' calling out President George W. Bush for invading Iraq)--and took time to raise their children. But their vacation from the music world was too much for the sisters to handle.

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The Court Yard Hounds sound a little like the softer side of Dixie Chicks, where Maines powers through a song, Robison's vocals are more akin to Sheryl Crow. But there's one thing that couldn't be denied on Monday night--the consummate musicianship by the sisters and their five band members. Maguire and Robison are multiinstrumentalists, but really, we can't think of other women players who can make fiddle playing and banjo picking look so darn good.

The sisters played five songsthat evening, including "The Coast," which has a Crow-meets- Eagles sentiment, and the country-rock flavored "Ain't No Son."

Both bands will be on tour this summer, with the Court Yard Hounds playing on the resurrected Lillith Fair and the Dixie Chicks opening for the Eagles on the band's summer tour.