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The Chapin Sisters

LAKE BOTTOM • The Chapin Sisters

There's something about singing sisters, whether old-fashioned ones like the Roches and the McGarrigles or newer-fangled ones like the Bairds and Coco Rosie. Maybe it's the luxury of multiple voices that are, in some way, the same. Maybe it's the built-in tension that comes from shared history and memories. In any case, the Chapin Sisters, bring more or less what you'd expect of a folk-centric trio of sisters, tight, dizzying harmonies, soulful flourishes and semi-telepathic calls and responses.

The Chapins come from a musical family. One dad in this blended household was Tom Chapin, the folk singer. The other was Wes Craven. (The girls have the same mother.) Harry Chapin (he of "Cat's in the Cradle") was an uncle. In fact, you might even think of the Chapin Sisters as combining dad Tom Chapin's folky accessibility with dad Wes Craven's taste for violence. Musically, "Shady River" is almost buoyant and breezy, its tangle of country guitars topped by a froth of girlish harmonies. And yet, this idyll has its threatening overtones. "Shady River carry me away," sing these Chapin sisters, and it's a drowning, not a boat trip that's conjured.
Similarly, brooding "Kill Me Now" eases the pain of its subject matter with drifts of wordless "oohs" and tight minor-third harmonies. "Let Me Go," one of the songs that brought this trio early attention, grafts complicated, wordless vocal parts onto the folk blues of the melody, one sister's part heartfelt and simple, the others twining in baroque dos and dits around this core. Its essential darkness is softened, mitigated in part, by the sheer luxuriance of the vocal arrangements.
Of course, that's nothing new. Folk music has always been crowded with pretty voices singing about murder and betrayal, sometimes solo, sometimes in girlish twos and threes. The Chapin Sisters make a worthy addition to this tradition, with soft lovely songs about hard, unbending truths. • Jennifer Kelly

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