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CD Reviews:
LIstening Room: Court Yard Hounds, Toni Braxton and more...

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, May 2, 2010

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Court Yard Hounds

“Court Yard Hounds”



Court Yard Hounds are what you’d call a new group with a track record — and a formidable one at that. It’s the band launched by sisters Emily Robison and Marti Maguire after fellow Dixie Chick Natalie Maines decided to continue her hiatus from music. So can two Chicks do the work of three? They certainly come pretty close and, on this richly written, performed and produced 12-song set, manage to sound familiar while pecking out a niche separate from what the trio would produce together. One can certainly understand, and feel, Robison’s apprehension as she begins the album asking “What am I doing here?/It’s such a lonely place,” but any tentativeness melts away by the second track, when the group charges full-throttle into the celebratory gallop of “The Coast.” The overall impact of “Court Yard Hounds” is somewhat smaller than the Chicks’ work but no less ambitious as the duo charges through soaring, upbeat tracks such as “I Miss You,” “It Didn’t Make a Sound” and “Ain’t No Son,” then mines a bit of psychedelia on “Delight (Something New Under the Sun)” and blues flavors for Sheryl Crow-like “Then Again.” Maguire’s richly arranged “Gracefully” and the rootsy “See You in the Spring,” a duet with Jakob Dylan, offer well-deployed changes of pace, and while Maguire, who proves a solidly capable lead vocalist throughout, manages to negotiate the fall out of her divorce from fellow musician Charlie Robison without leaving an obtrusive amount of blood on the tracks. The long wait for the next album from the duo’s “other” group certainly continues but “Court Yard Hounds” should certainly appease the Dixie Chicks nation and maybe even bring a few new fans into the flock.


Toni Braxton, “Pulse” (Atlantic) **1/2

After five years without an album it’s easy to think of Toni Braxton, a onetime multiplatinum diva usually mentioned in the same breath as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, more as a “Dancing With the Stars” contestant than a singer. But “Pulse,” which follows a bout with heart problems, brings Braxton back in fine form. Rather than filling this comeback with vocal histrionics and high-profile guests, Braxton delivers a refreshingly understated 11-songs affair — Beyonce-like cover aside — that mixes the occasional uptempo track (“Make My Heart,” “Lookin’ at Me,” “Wardrobe”) with bits of R&B torch ( as the single “Yesterday” with Trey Songz, “If I Have to Wait”) and the subtle ambience of “Woman,” “Hero” and “No Way,” find her exploring a deeper, richer register to great effect. “Pulse” shows Braxton’s creative heart is still beating, even after a prolonged absence.

New and Noteworthy:

Asia, “Omega” (Frontiers): The all-star rock group’s fourth studio album, and second since reforming in 2006. Guitarist Steve Howe, also of Yes, issues a solo album, “Homebrew,” this week as well.

Michael Bolton, “One World, One Love” (Universal Motown): Released overseas last fall, Bolton’s latest features collaborations with Lady Gaga and Ne-Yo and a cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.”

Broken Social Scene, “Forgiveness Rock Record” (Arts & Crafts): The Canadian collective’s fourth album, and first in five years, features recurring members Leslie Feist and members of Metric, Stars, the Sea and Cake, Poi Dog Pondering and the Weakerthans, among others.

Zac Brown Band and Friends, “Pass the Jar — Live From the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta” (Southern Ground/Atlantic): The title of this CD/DVD set says it all — the complete Zac Brown experience, sans sand for your “Toes.”

Justin Currie, “Great War” (Rykodisc): The second solo album, and first in three years, from the former Del Amitri frontman.

deftones, “Diamond Eyes” (Reprise): With bassist Chi Cheng in a coma after a 2008 auto accident, the headbangers put an already recorded album called “Eros” on hold and recorded this set with ex-Quicksand member Sergio Vega.

8Ball and MJG, “Ten Toes Down” (Push/Grand Hustle/E1): The Memphis rap duo worked with T.I., Snoop Dogg, David Banner and others on its first new set in three years.

Extreme, “Take Us Alive: Boston 2009” (Frontiers): A CD/DVD document of the home town gig on the reunited hard rockers’ last tour.

The Flaming Lips, et al, “...Doing ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’” (Warner Bros.): The Oklahoma art rockers are joined by Henry Rollins, Peaches and Stardeath and White Dwarfs on this recreation of Pink Floyd’s landmark concept album.

Godsmack, “The Oracle” (Universal Republic): The New England heavy rockers’ first new album since 2006 ushers in a new producer, Dave Fortman, and includes songs previewed on the 2009 Crue Fest 2 tour.

The Hold Steady, “Heaven is Whenever” (Vagrant): The Brooklyn rock quartet’s fifth album comes out to high expectations thanks to the success of 2008’s “Stay Positive.”

Carole King and James Taylor, “Live at the Troubadour” (Hear Music/Concord): Get ready for the duo’s May 27 concert at the Palace with this CD combo from a November 2007 show in Los Angeles.

Greg Laswell, “Take a Bow” (Vanguard): The California-born singer-songwriter, now a Brooklyn resident, completes his trilogy on love, loss and rebirth with this 12-song set.

Minus the Bear, “Omni” (Dangerbird): The Seattle indie rockers started recording its fourth full-length on its own with Grammy Award-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli, before signing with a new label.

Josh Ritter, “So Runs the World Away” (Pytheas): The Idaho singer-songwriter recorded his fifth full-length in Maine and Brooklyn.

Barbra Streisand, “One Night Only...” (Columbia): A CD/DVD set capturing the diva’s intimate show last September, accompanied by a quartet at New York’s Village Vanguard.

The Temptations, “Still Here” (UMe): The Motown stalwarts’ 49th album, and first in three years, includes a single, “Shawty,” produced by Detroit songwriter Keith Ferguson.

Tonic, “Tonic” (429): The California modern rock group returns with its fourth studio album after an eight-year break.

Various Artists, “Friday Night Lights Vol. 2: Original Television Soundtrack” (Arrival/Scion): Jakob Dylan, Band of Skulls, White Rabbits, Augustana and the Avett Brothers are among those contributing songs for the NBC drama’s latest season.

Chely Wright, “Lifted Off the Ground” (Vanguard): Rodney Crowell produced this veteran singer-songwriter’s latest set, which comes out in conjunction with her memoir, “Like Me.”

From The Vaults: Cyrill Neville, “The Essential Cyril Neville 1994-2007” (M.C. Records); Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim, “Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings” (Concord); Vanilla Fudge, “Box of Fudge” (Rhino Handmade); Frank Zappa, “Greasy Love Songs” (Zappa)

New Music DVDs: Michael Bolton, “Live at the Royal Albert Hall” (Eagle Rock); Chickenfoot, “Get Your Buzz On Live” (DC3)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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