Monday, August 24, 2009
The Allison Sisters
For quite some time now, I've been wondering when it was going to be that I would hear the next record that made me stop and say "I need to hear that three more times right now". It's been an unusually long wait, probably since around May, when my friend Stu sent me a link to the incomprehensibly wonderful "I Like God's Style" by Isabel Baker (which everyone should seek out, by the way). But the joys of listening to that one had faded into the background some time ago.
As usual, this wait for the next big thing ended with no warning, in this case, late last week. That's when I went to play a stack of 45's I'd had sitting around for months, waiting for the chance to dig in to them. Right on top was a 45 on the Blue Hen label. I probably bought it based solely on the look of the label, which screamed out "this might not be good, but it's bound to be unique and probably interesting".
Well, it's better than I could have imagined. There is not a second of this record that I don't adore. In gorgeous, and appropriately ragged and imperfect three part harmonies, The Allison Sisters sing some of the best lyrics about new, overpowering love that I've ever heard.
Then comes the solo section, featuring a rollicking piano which ends it's featured turn with a neat little climbing riff, made all the more indelible in that it's not quite played right, followed by a neat little trebly country guitar thing.
The chorus, sung twice, is what really sealed the deal, with words that cut right through me:
"Icy cold water can't put out the fire
The rain and the storm only add to the flame"
Well that's nice, and a great way with lyrics, but then there's this:
"Being together the one desire
There's magic in speaking your name"
What a great chorus. The last line just did me in - "there's magic in speaking your name" - like most other people, I'm sure, I've felt just that way a few times in my life, in both shared and unrequited situations, and I was just stopped short by the words of those last two lines. Of course, they only worked because the tune, arrangement and vocals are just as magical as those lyrics.
I saw with amazement that this was intended as the B-Side. Not to take away from the A-side, which is quite good enough in it's own right, but the underside is clearly the better of the two.
Here's the A-side, with the Allison Sisters seemingly taking some of the same biblical lyrics that Pete Seeger would later mine (okay, probably not), and going into a different, more secular direction with the ensuing lyrics. Again, there are some great three part harmonies here, and a neat solo turn from that trebly guitar.
There is a lovely, unbeatable homemade feeling to this whole record. I can picture the sisters, who seem to be smiling broadly while singing, and I feel the affection between them, and likely between everyone who is heard on this record. This is music making at its most sublime.