The New York born and LA based sisters, Petra, Tanya and Rachel Haden, daughters of a jazz musician, have been around for years, mainly performing cameos on rock albums. But taking center stage for the first time, their debut album produced by Ry Cooder, showcases their sibling harmonies on the old-time country and folk material they heard from relatives in their childhood. Their grandparents were among the earliest Opry performers and were friends and rivals of the Carter Family, with their own radio show based on the family farm in Missouri.
The triplets open with the enchantingly pretty version of the Webb Pierce country classic ‘Slowly’, performed with delicate harmonies. This outstanding track is wonderful, and my favourite track here.
One of my favorite Carter Family songs, the plaintive ‘Single Girl, Married Girl’, is also very charming, and is being promoted as a single. Another Carter family classic, ‘Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone’ is carefully measured, with Cooder adding a booming male backing vocal in support. Also from the Carters’ songbook, the less known and more rhythmic ‘Oh Take Me Back’ picks up the tempo
The women’s high sweet harmonies are suitably angelic on Bill Monroe’s gospel waltz ‘Voice From On High’, which is a highlight. Monroe’s graveyard-set ‘Memories Of Mother And Dad’ is less remarkable, but still solid.
Their winsome versions of the Louvins’ ‘My Baby’s Gone’ and ‘When I Stop Dreaming’ are both gorgeous, and perfectly suited to the trio. Their lesser-known tragic tale ‘Tiny Broken Heart’ is another charming track.
The Stanley Brothers’ mournful ‘Lonesome Night’ is delivered at a slow and stately pace, with particularly beautiful guitar work from Cooder, whose work is tasteful and exemplary throughout. They don’t change the lyric, which is written from a male perspective, which makes the interpretation sound like a ghostly one.
The playful ‘Billy Bee’ is performed almost acappella with very faint strains of music very low in the mix.
One of the few disappointments is country standard ‘Making Believe’, a beautiful song but here the vocals are a little too self-consciously pretty and not emotional enough. I just didn’t believe it. Finally, the most modern song, Nick Lowe’s ‘Raining Raining’ is just okay, with an ethereal lead vocal from Tanya, but it does feel out of place.
Overall, though, this is a delightful album for lovers of the oldest recorded country music.