East Bay Originals
The T Sisters’ second album delights with harmonies.
Whether it’s genetics or growing up in close quarters, familial singing—from Mother Maybelle Carter and her kin to the Mills Brothers, the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, the McGarrigle Sisters, and the Roches—has an intuitive stickiness that binds the harmonies and holds the listener fast as they hold the notes.
For contemporary proof, you need listen no further than the second album, T Sisters (Three-Headed Sounds, TSisters.com), from Erika, Chloe, and Rachel Tietjen, aka the T Sisters. On nine original songs and a cover of Foy Vance’s “Make It Rain,” the Oakland siblings knit their voices in tight unisons and teasing counterpoints, sometimes silken, sometimes a rougher fabric. Their harmonies swoop and soar, adding emotional shape and color to verse and chorus lyrics that have mostly to do with romance, resilience, and resistance.
Erika and Rachel play acoustic guitars and banjo, band members Steve Height, Andrew Allen Fahlander, and Marlon Aldana add upright bass, mandolin, electric guitar, and drums and percussion, and guest musicians change up the mixes with violin, lap steel, cello, piano, organ, and Wurlitzer keyboard.
The sort of bluegrass-tinged folk-rock that you hear on A Prairie Home Companion provides the musical foundation, but the sisters’ styles range as far as gospel-tinged a cappella (“So It Goes”), seething electric blues (“Make It Rain”), Cab Calloway-like jazz (“Shadoop), and Georgia Sea Island–inspired chant (“I Have a Hammer”). Aided by bright, impeccable production, the album’s ambitious reach never exceeds the fierce grasp of the T Sisters’ singing.
Published online on May 9, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.