Music Reviews

The Be Good Tanyas

Chinatown

Nettwerk America

Looking for the feel good hit of the spring? Something to cheer you up in the midst of all this war news? Well this record ain’t it. This female Vancouver-based old time folk/bluegrass trio offers a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s desperately bleak “Waiting Around To Die” as the second track on Chinatown, and it only goes downhill from there. Later they cover “In My Time of Dying,” the traditional tune popularized by Led Zeppelin. We get an ode to a pet gone to the great beyond (“Dogsong 2”) as well as an ode to a dead child (the traditional “I Wish My Baby Was Born”). There are also plenty of tunes about loneliness, leaving and the blues.

Frazey Ford, Samantha Parton and Trish Klein all sing rough-hewn, homespun harmonies, accompanied by delicately strummed or picked acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and ukulele. Six of the fourteen tracks here are originals, five are public domain or traditional songs and the rest are covers. All are deeply depressing and not a lot of fun.

Ford’s quirky vocals on the melancholy cornet-tinged “The Junkie Song” owe something to Ani DiFranco, Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman. “And don’t we all hover / Between apathy and compassion / Fill up all our days with so much distraction / It makes it easier not to see,” she sings. She also offers a loping version of “House of the Rising Sun” with plenty of irritating vocal trills. And her vocals on “In Spite of All the Damage” are just way too precious.

Parton channels Billie Holiday with her breathy, gargled warbling on the slo-mo “Lonesome Blues.” Elsewhere, the trio approximates Gillian Welch’s updated traditional style on “Reuben,” which with “Ship Out On the Sea” offers the only antidotes to the unrelenting bleakness.

The trio’s debut album The Blue Horse had a certain chirpy sweetness and charm. Unfortunately, the doom and gloom here wears out its welcome quickly. If you’re like me, you may find yourself running for the nearest AC/DC album.

Nettwerk America: http://www.nettwerkamerica.com/ • The Be Good Tanyas: http://www.begoodtanyas.com/


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