The Haden Triplets – Petra, Rachel and Tanya – were born in New York but raised in Los Angeles. The daughters of jazz double-bassist Charlie Haden, the sisters have worked with an impressive roster of big names including Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Weezer, Green Day and Todd Rundgren. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2014, produced by Ry Cooder, and 6 years on they are releasing their follow-up record entitled The Family Songbook.
For this record, the trio has unearthed songs from their grandfather, Carl E. Haden, and selected standards and favourites to cover. The album opens with an atmospheric rendition of Wayfaring Stranger, that utilises reverb on the vocals to create depth. Honestly, it’s a little bit of a strange choice to open the record with as it doesn’t necessarily grab you the way an opening track should. While it’s an interesting take on the well-known song, I’d have sequenced it further down the track list.
If you’re a fan of the old-school style vocal trios such as The Andrews Sisters, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. Ozark Moon sounds like it’s from a few decades ago, with The Haden Triplets selling the song convincingly. Memories of Will Rogers is one of the only real uptempo moments on the record and it’s a bit of relief from the moody tone that much of the album takes.
One of the most unexpected moments comes on a cover of Kayne West’s Say You Will. Here the sisters have transformed it into a flamenco-driven mid-tempo jam, which couldn’t sound further from the original version of the track. It works but like much of the album, it’s a little too on the moody side to truly grab you.
Elsewhere on the record Pretty Baby allows the sisters’ voices to shine free from backing instrumentation, Every Time I Try is swoonsome and lilting, and What Would You Give is a slow-burner that lasts almost five minutes in length. The album comes to a close with a sparse version of I’ll Fly Away, another example of the power the trio has when they bring their harmonies together.
The Family Songbook isn’t going to appeal to everyone. For me it was just that little too dour for me to really be able to get into. There’s little shift in gears throughout the 12 songs and this is definitely not an uplifting collection of songs. It’s true that the trio is talented and their voices are their strength but the lack of any levity made this a bit of a tough listen. I’m sure their intended audience will love it but sadly it didn’t do a whole lot for me.
Track list: 1. Wayfaring Stranger 2. Who Will You Love 3. Say You Will 4. Ozark Moon 5. Flee As a Bird 6. Memories of Will Rogers 7. Pretty Baby 8. Gray Mother Dreaming 9. Every Time I Try 10. Wildwood Flower 11. What Would You Give 12. I’ll Fly Away Record label: Trimeter Records/Thirty Tigers Release date: 24th January 2020 Buy The Family Songbook