Nov 24, 2006

Album Review: Hello Love - The Be Good Tanyas

The Be Good Tanyas are (left to right) Samantha Parton, Trish Klein, and Frazey Ford The Be Good Tanyas are (left to right) Samantha Parton, Trish Klein, and Frazey Ford

I came across this band while recently browsing in a record store, intrigued by the eclectic blend of folk, country, blues, and pop that is The Be Good Tanyas.

The band hails from Vancouver, although their music is sometimes described as Americana. Every once in a while a listener can hear the slightest twinge of a western Canadian accent, giving the band's music a distinctive flavor.

Hello, Love mixes traditional ballads, original tunes from band members, and a handful of well-selected covers. The core sound is based on guitar, banjo, and mandolin, and the group brought in some session players to round out their sound on several tracks.

One of the many joys of this disc is the delicious three-part harmonies of the Tanyas. Unlike many roots acts, the singers avoid settling for simplistic first-fifth-tweflth structures, and branch out into some creative aural experiments.

The lead vocals are shared by Frazey Ford and Sam Parton, who bring distinctive approaches to the songs they sing. Ford has a throaty delivery, sometimes delving into a style that uses the cheeks as resonators. Even more impressive is when Ford breaks into vibrato while reaching back with her full-throated style as she does on the song "Ootischenia."

The Be Good Tanyas - Hello Love
Parton's style is somewhat breathy, a voice that can alternate between the fragile and deadly serious. Her best performance is on "Song for R.", in which her voice drops to a plaintive whisper as she narrates a tale of self-destruction accompanied only by piano and a lonely cello droning in the background.

The songwriting is strong, with poignant lyrics addressing a wide variety of themes. The band also manages to keep the listener guessing about structure; just when you think you know where a song is headed, they throw in a musical curve ball. The songs have a loose feel, like friends who just got together for a jam session, but the playing is anything but sloppy - The Tanyas are no instrumental slouches, and Trish Klein's guitar solos give many of the songs an added punch.

One of my favorite tracks among the thirteen tunes on this disc is the apocalyptic "Scattered Leaves," a cover of the Jeremy Lindsay (of JT and the Clouds fame) song. One can envision Frazey Ford standing in the middle of a wind-blown cemetery singing this creepy dirge:
Don't you go looking so surprised, baby don't you look so stunned
Didn't I tell you that a cold November'd come?
And deliver the leaves from green to red
To blowing in the wind stone dead
After you purchase this disc (and you will, because it is that good), be sure to stick around for the hidden thirteenth track, which is a stripped-down cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry." The percussion is reduced to brush, high-hat, snare, and bass drum, and Frazey Ford reinteprets this 1980s staple in a catchy manner that all but recreates the song.

Buy it, play it, and love it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip, Mike.