There’s no denying Court Yard Hounds roots, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison make reference to the joys of playing without someone in the middle and the Dixie Chicken restaurant down the road. Nevertheless, the cult like following which has no doubt spawned from their Dixie Chicks days sees them take to the Union Chapel stage where they’re greeted by a standing ovation. As they fuse a plethora of sounds, the country and folk influences are clear. Whilst Maguire weaves her fiddle, viola and mandolin through the set, Robison switches between banjo and guitar which combines with their ability to harmonise their vocals over their five strong band to culminate into a musical foray, both exquisite and exciting.
The whooping and hollering during opener Delight (Something New Under The Sun) seems to surmise the set, and as they meander through the majority of their debut album it’s clear to see that live is when the sisters come to life. The building layers in Skyline (especially Maguire’s viola) add depth and diversity sandwiching the ballad numbers such as I Miss You (which Robison penned in just 5 minutes) into the up tempo tracks with ease. Whilst the album had passed me by in a blur, tonight each song breathes new life of its own, until no single track can be earmarked as the moment of the night. Whilst See You In The Spring is notable for its eloquence and Fear Of Wasted Time both pensive and moving, The Coast and Didn’t Make A Sound highlight their command of the country genre.
It’s fair to say the only disappointment is the omission of Maguire’s only solo composition on the album Gracefully, leaving Robison to take full control of the vocal lead. Nevertheless she rarely seems sidelined, her harmonies both on instrument and vocals being the things which bring the songs to life. Nevertheless Robison is equally dazzling, her slide guitar and vocal dexterity only serving to question why she hasn’t stepped up the lead before. Add to the mix a haunting cover of Joni Mitchell’s This Fight Tonight, a rendition of the Dixie Chicks instrumental Lil’ Jack Slade and mid set banter as Robison dons an English accent, describing one audience members residence as ‘the Mary Poppins part of London’ and the smile which engulfs both sisters and audience faces are more than justified.
Beginning as they end, the mantra driven Ain’t No Son Of Mine leads the audience back to their feet ready to witness the band lift the roof on the chapel with their encore Then Again. If new song Caged Bird is anything to go by, Court Yard Hounds are simply set to grow in strength. The girls make music that is effortless, for both band and audience alike and while the album may have gone awash, live it’s a whole different score.