Thursday, June 5, 2008

Album Review: Fire Songs From The Watson Twins

Most people know The Watson Twins—Chandra and Leigh—from their playing with Jenny Lewis on the album Rabbit Fur Coat. And the sisters work on that record really helped make it special. So it is very exciting to have the follow up to their self-released debut EP, Southern Manners, scheduled for release on June 24. Their first full-length album, Fire Songs, is a beautiful collection of originals and one cover. It is being released by Vanguard Records, home to Levon Helm, Nellie McKay, and Doc Watson.

Sonically The Watson Twins exist in the alt-county/folk/indie sphere. While this is well-traveled terrain, Chandra and Leigh definitely have their own sound and approach that lets them stand out in the crowd. Certainly the excellent songwriting featured on the record does not hurt. Tunes such as “Bar Woman Blues” and “Dig A Little Deeper” explore a world mixed with struggle and hope, sadness and joy.

The Twin’s version of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” is so very lovely and does what the best covers do: pay homage to the original, but still take the song in a new and compelling direction. The sister’s version transforms the song from the joy of the present to the melancholy of memory.

A major element contributing to the strength of Fire Songs is the warmth and immediacy of the sound that can be attributed to the use of analog instead of digital recording. Producing the album this way allows the sister’s singing and harmonies to sound really natural. In addition, this technique really highlights the sound and the interplay between the vocals, band, and the melody. But in the end, all production aside, The Watson Twins are wonderful singers who write powerful tunes—and that’s what makes Fire Songs so great.


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