Court Yard Hounds, ‘Amelita’

It may be a while before we see a new Dixie Chicks album, but the women are making the most of their time away from the coop. On the heels of Natalie Maines’s solo debut, “Mother,” her harmony partners — sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison — make a strong step forward with “Amelita,” their second release as Court Yard Hounds. The multi-instrumentalists expertly weave the country flavors of their fiddles, dobros, and banjos into a beguiling folk-pop-singer-songwriter sound that could appeal equally to fans of their main gig and of artists such as Indigo Girls or James Taylor. Robison wears the lead singer role more confidently this time around, relishing the takedown of a misanthrope on the cheerily acidic “Sunshine,” offering hope on “The World Smiles,” and telling a straightforward tale of a circuitous life with a sense of promise on the melodic gem “Aimless Upward.” Maguire steps to center stage to reveal her winsome and sexy romantic daydreams on “A Guy Like You” and makes a compelling case for grace under pressure on “Gets You Down.” (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Aimless Upward”