SWEETBACK SISTERS – LOOKING FOR A FIGHT
2011 - Signature
This gorgeous album is a real throwback to the country music that covered the period from the ‘Western swing’ of the 1930s and 40s through to the ‘Nashville country’ and even ‘Rockabilly’ of the 1950s but without the sanitised sounds so prevalent over the last five decades! The female vocals are not only beautiful but are also loaded with so much character and personality that despite the heart meltingly sweet harmonies the recording is never cloying or bland. In fact, the whole album, including the brilliant instrumentation is just so good I don’t envisage filing it away for a very long time, if ever! There seems to be a freedom and lack of restraint in their approach to these excellent songs, even managing, unlike many in the past as well as the present, to make an album with a full sound and a variety of instruments but still with a sparseness that allows the songs to breathe and most importantly, allows the gorgeous vocals total freedom to express themselves.
The band consists of two lead vocalists, Zara Bode and Emily Miller, who not only possess beautiful voices of their own, but are also able to build some gorgeous and here is the bonus, slightly edgy harmonies! Smooth and at the same time sassy! There are also four talented male instrumentalists in this tremendous band, with Ross Bellenoit on guitar, Jesse Milnes guitar and fiddle, Peter Bitenc on upright bass and Stefan Amidon on drums. Of the songs themselves, six are covers of the work of artists such as Dwight Yoakam, Laurie Lewis and the late Hazel Dickens, with the remainder being the work of various band individuals and all stand up well against the covers.
The album kicks off with a cover, Love me, Honey, done in a blend of Rockabilly and Western Swing, followed by mariachi horns and fiddle driven gorgeous harmonies on Laurie Lewis’s Texas Bluebonnets. This is exactly how the album continues, with a lot of diversity within the broad parameters of ‘country music’ and a variety of tempos but always with the same excellent playing and beautiful lead vocals and harmonies. Some of the vocals come across as sassy as in the Milnes penned title track Looking For A Fight, others are heartrendingly gorgeous as on the ‘old time’ flavoured Hazel Dickens penned Don’t Put Her Down and on Zara Bode’s Home with it’s lovely chiming guitar and beautiful emotional vocals. The Dwight Yoakam cover It Won’t Hurt is actually better than the original whilst Ross Belenoit’s two credits The Mystery Of You and The Heart Of My Mind are both sad country ballads with lovely mournful steel guitar backing. There is the excellent Rockabilly of the Travelling Wilbury’s Rattled and the honky tonk feel of Milnes Too many experts but there is a real eye opener at the end of the album with the tongue in cheek Cowboy Ham And Eggs, being classic western swing with the male band members contributing some excellent lead vocals as well as harmonies. Bodes (no pun intended!) well for the future when you realise that a superb band such as this still have a lot more up their sleeves!