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.


Joyce said...

This was so nostalgic, Bob. It's exactly the kind of stuff I grew up on. My mom would have loved these girls, I'm sure.

And "I Like God's Style" is amazing. I literally swore out loud (sorry, Isabel!) when I first heard it, it was that much of an experience.

Anonymous said...

You're my blog stop immediately after WFMU, keep up the great curating, Bob!

Stu Shea said...

This is a sweet record, though not necessarily in my style. I'm glad you found it...did you find out anything about the Allison Sisters?

Anonymous said...

my grandmother is the oldest sister. She turns 96 next week. 3 of the 4 sisters are still living.

Tammy said...

This is awesome! The oldest Allison sister is my Grandmother who will be 96 next week! Who would have ever thought this would be somewhere on the Internet? They sang at the Grand Ole Opry once with Ernest Tub. There are pictures of the four of them in those days with one of these 45 records framed in my Grandmothers room. Thank you for posting!

Country Paul said...

From the Recod Relic 45 website, where this is for sale (in January 2013) for $50:

Here is a 45 on the great BLUE HEN Label from Harrington, Delaware. Some very sought after records were made on this label, including several Rockabilly recordings by artists such as Jimmy Stayton, Rudy Thacker, Bill Price and others.

This record came from the collection of a deceased DJ, and includes a very rare Press Release that was folded and inside the record’s paper sleeve. The note tells about the artist and kindly asks the DJ to spin this record.

This record has a Pop Music sound with great vocal harmony by The Allison Sisters. Both songs are original, written by these sisters. What makes this recording really special is the backing band- The BILL PRICE Orchestra. This is the band that backed the great Rockabilly singer Bill Price on his Blue Hen records. The band has excellent guitar and drum work.


I just discovered your blog, Bob, and I'm hooked. This recod isn't song poem, but it's wonderful - and yes, the lyrics are a grabber! By the way, check out Rudy Thacker's "Mountain Guitar" on Blue Hen 234; it's another great one!