FOLLOW ME DOWN • The Lonesome Sisters
I love a great duo; so magnificently complete and so unnervingly stark that it captures the attention of the listening ear. And in this time where the duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings have set that bar so high, any duo, certainly one in the old-time or bluegrass domain, is inevitably, even if silently, compared.
The entrancing sound of The Lonesome Sisters sail through this comparison, and off into their own sonic galaxy. The vocal range of Sarah Hawker gets down into the second alto range, and her blend with Debra Clifford is a warm womanly place. Their harmony approach is high and lonesome, but without the nasality often associated with that sound. Likewise, the expert guitar work of Debra Clifford is a nice round tone with a metronomic sureness that's impressive, a little less "throaty" than is often heard in this style.
Although Sarah Hawker bade me not focus too closely on her banjo playing, she is a fine player, and has quite a heavenly sounding instrument, sounds like a cat gut strung relic that's been muted down to a plaintive voice.
Follow Me Down is their third release. They're all precious recordings of an important act that you'll want in your collection. Their eponymous debut had only a few originals, and the rest traditional classics like "Omie Wise" and "Pretty Saro," as well as tunes by the Stanley Brothers, and more surprising choices by Hugh Moffat and Blind Willie Johnson. The second record, Going Home Shoes, was co-produced by featured guest Riley Baugus, a mountain muti-instrumentalist we first heard about in our interview with Abigail Washburn. In this latest outing, the musical sisters team with Abigail's Uncle Earl bandmate Rayna Gellert on fiddle to moving effect.
The second record has a lot more great original songs than the first, and this one even more. One remarkable departure is a beloved poem of Rumi's, "Like This," so appalachianized that even this fan didn't recognize it as a 13th century Persian poem.
We'd like to thank our friend Mona Brittingham for first turning us on to this great act some time ago. Be sure to check the clips on the Listen page. More than recommended, urged. • Frank Goodman
photography by maria camillo