Okay. I'm convinced that the best numbers for sisters is three. A few weeks ago, I received a copy of Gold Hearts' My Sisters and Me in the mail, slapped it on and heard some of the best vocal bluegrass this side of the Mississippi except that they live in Virginia and for me that is not 'this side'. For this, though, I will make an exception and claim the other side as well. So let me rephrase that. This is some of the best vocal bluegrass anywhere. While it is just three young girls (guitar, fiddle and mandolin) supported by bass, dobro and banjo (did I say 'just'?), it is the epitome of the old-timey and bluegrass music of old, presented straight, no chaser. In other words, authentic.
Let me tell you why. When these young girls sing, their voices stop just short of weaving a trance. There are no bells and whistles, no sleight-of-voice. It is simply one, two or three voices wrapped in the joy of song, and oh, the joy! Hints of slight Southern accents peek through here and there heightening the effect and when all three let loose, it is mountain magic. While I normally avoid quoting other critics, I make exception two: "If angels sing bluegrass, this is what it sounds like."—Keith Lawrence, Bluegrass Notes. If I could say it better I would, but I can't.
The Gold sisters are family but more than that they are a team. They trade lead vocals throughout the album, undoubtedly for the betterment of the music. You have to listen carefully to hear the difference between, say, Shelby's lead on Grin and Bear It to that of Analise on Chasing Lightning Bugs to Jocelyn on Miles, but it's there—just enough of a difference to—well, make a difference. Either these girls are truly sisters in every sense of the word or they hide the rivalry well.
What makes a great album? It doesn't hurt to have Aaron McDaris playing banjo, Alan Bartram on bass and the new-to-me Andy Hall adding his feather touch on the dobro when needed. Producer Justin Carbone called in players who fit the music to a 'T' and 'T' it is. I also give Carbone at least partial credit for steering clear of the traps into which one can fall in the studio—the sound chambers and effects which electronically enhance sound. To have aided the voices (and instruments) in such a fashion would have been a detriment to the whole spirit of this project. This is roots at its best and should have been treated like it was—with the utmost respect.
Speaking of respect (beyond that deserved just for the music provided), I cannot step away without mentioning the exceptional songwriting prowess of Jocelyn Gold. Still in her teens, she writes like a pro, contributing most of the music on this album. There should be a law that you can't write songs this good until you're thirty but I'm glad there isn't. A superb job.
Oh, that reference to three and sisters? This past weekend I attended the Sisters Folk Festival and was totally blown away by three young girls from Fort Worth, Texas called The Quebe Sisters. Fiddling maniacs, they smoked through a set of country swing and jazz while singing three part harmonies a la The Andrews Sisters. The whole time I'm watching, I'm thinking 'three sisters—huh—what are the odds.' Evidently favorable. First Gold Heart, then the Quebe Sisters. Can life get better? Stay tuned…
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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