This is a publicity picture from Austin, Texas, but you get the idea looking at this image that the Court Yard Hounds are all in with their instruments and voices when they hit the stage. Martie Maguire, left, and Emily Robison did not for a moment trade on their fame as 2/3rds of the old Dixie Chicks (2007 Grammies for record, song, and album of the year, but who’s counting?). With ultimate class and confidence, they rolled out their own repertoire that swung from rock and classic country to folky ballad and high bluegrass. Their musicianship is superb, a consistent theme in this year’s Boarding House Park-based Lowell Summer Music Series. It’s an honor for the audiences to witness such excellence in the performing arts. They are from Texas now, although Emily said she was born in Pittsfield, Mass., so it’s fair to say they are “all cattle and no hat” when it comes to playing music. The four-member backing band complemented well the sisters’ harmonies and playing. The group powered through their set list right to the encore, which was a spirited instrumental dazzle that sent folks bouncing to the exits. I thought I heard a touch of Sheryl Crow in a couple of the up-tempo numbers during the evening. The weather was A-1 for an outdoor show, and the crowd filled the park nearly to the edges.
Opening for the Hounds was Lowell’s own Amy Black, but not for long because she is moving to Cambridge, according to her stage patter. She and her Red Clay Rascals set up the evening vibe nicely with their rootsy country sound, including Amy’s stand-out song “Molly” in which she contrasts her contemporary mill-condo life with a woman factory worker one hundred years ago.