The Chapin Sisters: Lake Bottom

By: Dennis Cook

Rolling out with the otherworldly beauty of antique folk and simmering '70s folk-rock, The Chapin Sisters' debut full-length is like Maddy Prior singing honey harmonies with Linda Ronstadt and Shannon McNally with the added delicious synchronicity of sibling resonance. Lake Bottom (released March 18 on Plain Recordings) is a melancholy haul, sad music that makes you grin a little.

Happy records don't begin by saying, "My baby hates me and it's nobody's fault but mine/ He says he'd leave me but he's sure is taking his time." A few cuts later on "Kill Me Now" they proclaim, "You've ruined my life/ Don't defend it/ Just go get a knife and please end it." What's cool about the Chapins is how they take such funereal material and make it glow and tumble in ways that keep Lake Bottom from being a folksy Bauhaus. This is endlessly lovely and all three ladies - Abigail, Lily and Jessica - have a complexity and ingenuous prettiness to their singing that's nigh irresistible. The trio has contributed vocals to recordings by Vetiver, Lavender Diamond, Gary Louris and others, and it isn't hard to see where their presence gives a significant lift to any recording. Here, in their own setting, things are spare and exposed, immediate as a campfire hootenanny if said hoot took place on the ivy covered steps of a country castle.

Producers Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver) and Mike Daly (Whiskeytown, Grace Potter) keeps things clean and roomy. The ladies' voices soar with some nice ceiling and the largely acoustic instrumentation hits with bright clarity in these tales of dancing demons and hateful moons. Well sung, well played and well written, Lake Bottom is a lovely, engaging first salvo from these very talented sisters.

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[Published on: 3/26/08]

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