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The Be Good Tanyas

Chinatown – 2003 (Nettwerk)

Reviewed by Bill Silvers

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CDs by The Be Good Tanyas

A uniquely interesting blend of influences, The Be Good Tanyas made a promising, well-received debut with 2001's "Blue Horse." Combining elements of traditional forms - old time country, folk and blues - with captivating harmonies into a subtly, inescapably insinuating whole, the three ladies (Frazey Ford and Samantha Parton on guitar and mandolin, alternating on lead vocals/harmonies, with Trish Klein accompanying on electric guitar, banjo, harmonica and harmonies) have crafted an even better, more consistent record the second time out.

Mixing original material (Ford wrote 4, Parton 2 of the 14 songs) with well-chosen covers (Towes Van Zandt's "Waiting Around To Die," Peter Rowan's "Midnight Moonlight" and the delicious hidden track at the end of the record) and traditional/public domain standards, The Be Good Tanyas are reverent without being retro. The pace is unhurried, and the tempos are only intermittently lively, but the hold is like a spider's web. The sometimes partly-enunciated lead vocals (particularly Ford's) are the only notable weakness here, and over time even they are subsumed by the spell. Ford's "Ship Out On The Sea" and "In Spite Of All The Damage" are standouts, and the band's reworking of "Reuben" is an apt demonstration of their ability to turn the traditional into something all their own.