Reports about the two ladies were forming a group without Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines surfaced shortly after the holidays. As the Court Yard Hounds, their sound is described as spanning “folk, country, rock and Americana.”

The Court Yard Hounds self-titled CD drops May 4, but pre-orders began today through the group’s Web site where advance purchasing also get you an exclusive four-song download.

“It was time,” said multi-instrumentalist Robison. “We had been on hiatus from The Dixie Chicks for about a year, I was getting very restless and needed to be creative for my own sanity. And at the same time I was going through my divorce so it was very fertile ground for writing.”

But the hiatus lasted longer than expected. Meanwhile, the need for a creative outlet grew.

“Emily was just writing and writing all of these deeply personal and truly beautiful songs,” added Maguire. “She was initially going to pitch them to other artists and I kept telling her no, no, you have to save that for you. It’s too good and too personal.”

Tour plans call for the duo to play North America in the summer, Europe and Australia in the fall. One date already announced is the Court Yard Hounds’ appearance at Austin’s SxSW, scheduled for the Americana Music Association showcase at Antone’s.

To learn everything you need to know about the Court Yard Hounds, click here for the group’s Web site.