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Review: Court Yard Hounds fill Dixie Chicks' void

| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 12:46 a.m.

‘Amelita'

Court Yard Hounds (Columbia)

★★★★

With the Dixie Chicks seemingly in a holding pattern (lead singer Natalie Maines released a solo covers album earlier this year), sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire are pressing on as country duo Court Yard Hounds.

Their stellar sophomore set “Amelita” builds on the promise of their 2010 self-titled debut as the talented siblings have written and recorded some first-rate material. Robison handles the bulk of the vocals on the 11-track release, though Maguire shines on “A Guy Like You.” The Hounds soar on “Sunshine,” the title track, “Rock All Night,” personal favorite “Divided,” “Gets You Down” and “The Road You Take.” Enjoy y'all.

‘The Heart. The Hand. The End'

Poor Young Things (Bumstead)

★★★½

Canadian indie rock outfit Poor Young Things has landed a spot on the Vans Warped Tour and have been named one of SiriusXM's emerging artists of 2013. Check out rock-solid debut full-length “The Heart. The Head. The End” to see if all the buzz surrounding the quintet is justified. There is nothing particularly novel about the 11-track release, but frontman Matt Fratpietro and his mates inject plenty of life into keepers “Dress It Up,” “Sign of the Times,” “Warpaint,” “Running” and “Given the Situation” to make this an enjoyable record from beginning to end.

‘Dust Unto Dust'

Kevin Presbrey (self-released)

★★★★

Best known as frontman for alternative rockers Painkiller Hotel, Kevin Presbrey explores his country side on his twang-tastic solo debut EP “Dust Unto Dust.”

This five-track collection of Americana tunes is a delight, with Presbrey hitting pretty much every note on the 16-minute release. The opening trio of “Tell Me What You Want,” “Good Man” and “Sunrise” is flat-out terrific, and closing tune “Always With Me” is another gem. Hope to hear more of the same from this one-time rocker.

‘Soul Flower'

Robin McKelle & the Flytones (OKeh)

★★★★

Robin McKelle earned her stripes and plenty of accolades as a solo jazz vocalist, but she shows a penchant for soulful rhythm and blues on “Soul Flower,” her first album with backing band the Flytones. It's a stellar gathering of tunes that mixes originals with a few well-chosen covers (an uptempo reading of “Walk On By,” “To Love Somebody” and a terrific rendition of the classic “I'm a Fool to Want You”). Among the many highlights are “So It Goes,” “Fairytale Ending,” “Don't Give Up” and “Change.” Good stuff.

‘Far From Your Arms'

Gambles (GMBLS)

★★★★½

It's appropriate that singer/songwriter Matthew Daniel Siskin — aka Gambles — bears such an uncanny physical resemblance to a young Bob Dylan on the cover of his stellar “Far From Your Arms” EP.

Because Gambles reminds me a lot of Dylan on this five-track gem. The song structure bears a strong resemblance to the hall-of-famer's early, acoustic work (though Siskin is a superior singer), and this tasty sampler platter has me longing to hear more.

There isn't a bad song to be found on the 13-minute release, with Gambles shining especially bright on “Trust,” “Safe Side,” the title track and “Father Song.”

‘The Second'

Forrest Day (self-released)

★★★★

Ever since hearing the 2011 debut from Forrest Day, I have been eager for the quintet to serve up a sophomore set of tunes that blends everything from rock and pop and jazz and rap into a unique sound all its own. Forrest Day fronts the band that bears his name and he has another winner on his hands in “The Second.”

If you liked the band's first album, you'll dig this 12-track release that continues its musical evolution. Standouts include “Rain, Pain, Sinatra,” “Dead Now,” “Voices,” “Oakland Horizon,” “Guilty,” “Blackness” and “Years.”

If you still haven't heard Forrest Day strut its stuff, here's a perfect place to start.

‘A Town Called Normal'

Vincent Cross (self-released)

★★★★

Ireland-born, New York City-based singer/songwriter Vincent Cross turned heads with his 2008 debut “Home Away From Home,” a fantastic collection of bluegrass tunes, and he expands his musical palette into Americana and folk on “A Town Called Normal.”

Though Cross is not a household name, he should be. He shows it on this tasty gathering of 12 tunes. Keepers include the title track, the timeless “Cursed,” “Trouble Being There,” “Childish Things,” “Walking on the Outside” and “Wrack & Ruin.”

Highly recommended.

Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or jsisk@tribweb.com.

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