Following a debut, Lake Bottom (here), that garnered universal praise for its odd dark beauty, the sisters now return with a new CD unmistakably cast in the mold of Lake, drear, haunting, evocative, and gorgeous. Right from the a cappella intro, one doesn't mistake the funereal pallor of the Usherine refrains for any lack of thoughtfulness, as these ladies are quite unhedging in exploring the dimly lit recesses of human emotion within a sonic environment. Most others merely touch on the sentiments and then move on but not the Chapins (a part of the Harry/Tom/Jim family, by the way). Like a pair of Hamlet's Ophelias, they swim in them, then descend to the bottom of the idyllic river, completely submerged. Not to put too fine a point on it, but when you might pen lyrics like:
I'm digging a hole I'll be digging for the rest of my life
…it's unlikely you're flogging Dale Carnegie books, isn't it? That's from Digging a Hole, a cut inspissating the progressive folk of the Strawbs and Steeleye Span in a Natively percussed beat Romantically pressed in the 4AD vein. The arrangements are particularly sparkling, if we can call something so Gothic 'sparkling', woven with a spare knowing hand.
Missing in action, due to the arrival of her baby, is third sister Jessica, the interim taken by Lili and Abigail, and so well attuned are they that the trey spot is artfully handled in overdubs, not missing a beat or a note. Two, however, is a CD for a darkened chapel, the lull before a storm, perhaps soundtracking for angst and dolor following a romantic severance. Almost like the blues, it uplifts as it depresses. Palm Tree, half way through the disc, seems to be the meeting of Randy Newman and Emmylou Harris sharing too many gin shooters after a bad day in the North 40. Small wonder, then, that the scions of the 'weird folk' movement have been so attracted to the Chapin Sisters, using them for just the right hue of depression and pining in a number of variegated CDs. You would, too, if you had any of the striking Davendra Banheart / Larkin Grimm / Vetiver outre tendencies.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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