(The Court Yard Hounds: Martie Maguire-left, Emily Robison-right)
On a breezy night in Napa, just after the sun had gone to bed, the Court Yard Hounds took the stage at Noteworthy to do their part for music eduction.
VH1 Save The Music Foundation brought sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison–AKA 2/3 of the Dixie Chicks–to California for a 10-song set that helped raise bags of money to keep music education alive in schools.
“There’s no parlay dance floor?” Robison asked the crowd of 200 who responded with laughter.
After a few more jokes, the band started their set with “Then Again,” a country bubbler with a funky twang, off their 2010 eponymous debut album.
Their second song, “Aimless Upward,” brought the tempo down to a simmer. The chorus hung on a clever lyric, “We are seeds with promises to keep,” that embodied the soul of a Cat Stevens classic, upgraded for a modern audience who identified with the word “hippie” in their youth.
Before heading into their third song, Robison explained their personal connection to the night’s performance. Growing up, the sisters attended a private school in Dallas and even though the school spent tons of money on facilities, the music program was housed in a trailer.
“The bottom line is that music is important,” Robison said. “It gets us through our lives. That’s why we’re so honored to be here.”
Then the band took off like Usian Bolt hitting the 10-meter mark with an up-tempo, blue grass, toe-tapper called “Phoebe.” The highlight of the song was the hook: “The golden rule you learn in school / boys will be mean / but girls are downright cruel.”
Next up was “Guy Like You,” a slow jam that put the crowd in chill mode. Maguire introduced “Coast” by jesting, “After you come to Napa, you no longer think the Texas coast is so beautiful.” Yet, the song, a traditional mid-tempo country tune bubbling with guitar strumming and a sing-song chorus, did the Texas coastline proud.
Then it was on to “Divided,” a track dominated by the longing of its hook (“Staaaay a little longer / Don’t let this feeling go to waaaaste / When the sun comes up, I want to be there when you wake”), the pure tone of Maguire’s fiddle, and the gentle licks of the drummer’s high hat.
After a brief intermission to joke about their dad being a “little shit” for cheating on their mom and causing their parents’ divorce, they told the story behind “Ain’t No Son,” a song about a gay boy grappling with his parents’ disapproval. Robison broke out the banjo for this rousing anthem which drew loud applause. Clearly, the subject hit home with this audience of Californians who recently turned the tide on the legality of same-sex marriage.
They “covered” the Dixie Chicks classic “Cowboy,” before finishing their set with two tracks, “Sunshine” and “Amelita,” from their new album. They described the former as, “a song about that guy who’s a turd in the punch bowl.” and someone yelled out, “That could be half my family!” The later, the new album’s title track, is about, “a Mexican hooker we ran into south of the border.” Both songs were uptempo and that fit the mood perfectly.
By this point, everyone was tips from embiding William Hill Chardonnay. Dancing in the aisles had ensued a few songs ago, so the band ignored the local 9pm performance curfew. They stayed true to their roots for the encore, and rocked out a square-dance instrumental. A great way to wrap a great night. After all, when you’re throwing down Texas style, there’s no better way to close out a show.