Emily Robison and Martie MaguireWhen Dixie Chicks sisters -- fiddler Martie Maguire and guitarist/banjoist Emily Robison -- recorded their first album together without lead vocalist Natalie Maines, they re-named themselves Court Yard Hounds (a reference to the best-selling novel, 'City of Thieves'). The duo recorded their intimate pop-folk project at Martie's home studio in Austin, Texas.

Without Natalie, Emily sings lead vocals for the first time ever, on songs inspired by her recent divorce from fellow singer/songwriter Charlie Robison. "These songs are very personal," Emily tells Rolling Stone.

With Natalie on indefinite hiatus, Emily and Martie had become more and more anxious to get back in the studio to record the past few years.

"Emily and I had the itch," says Martie. "And every time we'd call Natalie and say, 'are you ready?,' she wasn't ready. She wanted a clear-cut break."

Both Emily and Martie insist that the Dixie Chicks have not disbanded. In fact, the sisters are still fervently hoping that Natalie -- who lives in Los Angeles -- will soon feel the same itch they did.

"I'm hoping she'll come out to one of our shows," says Martie. "Maybe it'll inspire her to want to do music again."

Emily sings a duet with Jakob Dylan on the album, 'See You in the Spring.' The sisters will appear for the first time as Court Yard Hounds at South by Southwest in March, and their new album is due out in May, with a tour to follow.