Under Review: The Living Sisters – Love To Live
Are we about done with supergroups and side projects? It seems like, every other day, someone who’s best known for being in one band is taking time off to explore some self-indulgent new genre. Sure, there have been some pretty righteous collaborations over the past few years, Monsters Of Folk and The Good The Bad & The Queen among them, but it’s getting a little out of hand. However, before we get back to our proper bands, let’s take the time to enjoy The Living Sisters, a trio of tremendously talented ladies joining together to create a delightful and playful record. The three leaders of the group are Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond, Inara George of The Bird And The Bee and Eleni Mandell, who performs and records as a solo artist. The uniting of these three is not that surprising, given how they’ve each extolled their love for pretty, classic pop music. The fruit of their collaboration is Love To Live, which is about as adorable an album as you could ever possibly desire. The songs blend country, girl-group pop and light electronica, but it’s the syrupy harmonies the three ladies create that steal the show. Like Monsters Of Folk (and unlike The Good The Bad & The Queen), The Living Sisters doesn’t have a defined leader, and the way in which the girls’ voices intertwine (sometimes rendering each one indistinguishable from the next) is quite impressive. Though Mandell claims writing credit for half of the album’s original songs, it’s clear that the arrangements were composed so as to bring out the best in each singer.
The set begins, appropriately and welcomingly enough, with “How Are You Doing?” With an outstretched hand and an irresistible smile, the album then takes a lovers’ trip on the “Ferris Wheel,” where a lazy slide guitar evokes an intimate slow dance rather than a hectic carnival. This leisurely pace permeates the whole album, which never rushes to get to a hook (but the hooks are certainly there). Stark’s “Cradle” blends a bluesy lyric with a spoken word interlude that would make The Shangri-Las very, very proud. “Double Knots” is the most contemporary-sounding piece on the record; not as elaborate as, say, “Polite Dance Song,” but just as memorable. It serves as an indicator that the seemingly old fashioned styles on the rest of the album aren’t that far off from today’s recent crop of crooners. A pair of covers, Bessie Smith’s “Good Ole Wagon” and Nancy Wilson’s “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am,” cements this reverence for the classic while simultaneously crafting the new. Okay, so I might be overreacting when I call for the end of the recent supergroup fixation. But, since new supergroups are rarely as satisfying as The Living Sisters, I hope the music world can quit while it’s ahead.