Acclaimed by the likes of Lau, Eliza Carthy and Dick Gaughan, Heather Macleod, Gina Rae, Cera Impala and honorary sister David Donnelly have been making waves on the Scottish acoustic music scene for a while, but now, with the release of their sophomore album (the first with the current line up) they’re setting sail into wider waters.
Their name nodding to such vintage female harmony trios as the Beverlys, Andrews and Boswells while also evoking the more contemporary likes of The Roches, The Be Good Tanyas and even soul act The Pointer Sisters, they trade in old school Americana, embracing folk, blues, gospel and swing with covers, self-penned and traditional material. Despite a sparse instrumentation of just banjo, guitar, whistle and double bass, embellished on the album with fiddle, drums and snatches of electric piano, theirs is a full and lively sound, signalled from the get go with a perky version of the gospel classic ‘Ain’t No Grave’.
They certainly breathe new life into old standards, augmenting the album’s trad inventory with a lovely slow waltzing take on folk murder ballad ‘Willow Garden’, a moody ‘Father Adieu’ accompanied by just bluesy guitar with the girls providing interwoven three-part harmony over which Donnelly sings in French and a capella album closer ‘Sylvie’, better known as the sexually euphemistic blues gospel ‘Bring Me Little Water Sylvie’.
Edinburgh songwriter Sandy Smith contributes two numbers, the bluesy ‘Six Degrees’ and the lazingly dreamy ‘Little Bird’, with Impala and Donnelly providing the remaining cuts. He’s responsible for and is vocally prominent on ‘Junkyard Band’, a bluesy gospel slouch carried on a handclap worksong rhythm and dirty slide guitar, and the double bass throbbing, finger-clicking jazz swing of ‘Devil May’ care, a number that really nods to those 40s trios. Perhaps because she’s the outfit’s banjo player, Impala’s offerings all hew to a more country sound with the huskily sung slow swayer ‘Whisky’ which features husband Dirk Ronnenburg on fiddle, the breathily uptempo mountain music fuelled ‘Higher Place’ with its brushed drums and banjo solos and ‘Row My Boat’, where western swing meets gypsy jazz and, a compliment of the highest order, sort of reminded me of Toy Hearts. What they do won’t be to every folk or Americana devotee’s taste, but if this is your tipple, then you should really have a bevvy or three, the effect is decidedly intoxicating.
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Artist website: www.bevvysisters.co.uk