The Chapin Sisters

The Chapin Sisters

The Chapin Sisters

Chapin Sisters Two

Lake Bottom

It’s not a good idea to make a habit of this, but there are a lot of clues about the current musical direction of the Chapin Sisters to be found in their album sleeve photos. The images from their 2007 split LP with Winter Flowers shows three primary-colored wildflowers, ethereal and diaphanous, matching more wandering and aether-dwelling folk sounds. On the cover of Two, the band is winnowed down to a duo — third member Jessica Craven leaving (to be a mom) — looking out seriously from a sepia photograph, much more grounded and self-possessed than the astral folk maidens of yore. That aside, there’s no denying that core sisters Abigail and Lily Chapin not only have beautiful voices on their own, but have that unselfish telepathy that makes for near-perfect vocal harmonies (along the lines of a Graham Nash/David Crosby or Azure Ray). Two is an album of graveyard ballads, alt-country finery, and torch folk. The strength of their voices lend an earthy grit not found in albums that furrow similar ground (Hope Sandoval, Orenda Fink, et al), and songs like “Sweet Light” and the “Rose in Winter” are undeniable. But some songs suffer under “mature” arrangements and overly-polished instrumentation, giving it too much of a latter-day Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, or even a Dixie Chicks feel. Whenever a more mannered number hits, I start itching, thoroughly wigged out like the Gothic dramatics of “Bird in My Garden.” Don’t grow up too fast, now.

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