Sweetback Sisters Sassy Brooklyn-Style Country Gems


Looking for a Fight

Signature Sounds 2038

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I did a triple take when I read that The Sweetback Sisters were from Brooklyn. Their sassy, badass take on retro country is more like what you’d expect from good ole’ boys living in the part of Texas where the Pecos meets the Rio Grande, not from back-talking gals living near where Flatbush crosses Atlantic.

Vocalists Zara Bode and Emily Miller, who also play acoustic guitar, front the Sweetback Sisters. The instrumentation is anchored by Jesse Milnes (fiddle, vovals) Stefan Amidon (drums, vocals), Ross Bellenoit (electric guitar), and Peter Bitenc (bass). It’s a solid lineup capable of fancy razzle-dazzle, but The Sweetback Sisters are more interested in having fun than making people admire their hot licks. They take us back to a time in which country music and Western swing were equal parts insouciant and corny, and theirs is a modern-day mash of the sensibilities of Patsy Cline, The Sons of the Pioneers, and Hank Williams, with a little bit of Appalachia and the pop charts thrown in for good measure. The title song is a Milnes original, but it sounds as if it could have been lifted from the repertoire of a 1950s bar West Texas bar band writing from real-life experience.

The Sweetback Sisters do a nice job of mixing retro originals with covers of everyone from Dwight Yokam (“It Won’t Hurt When I Fall Down from This Bar Stool”) to the Traveling Wilburys (“Rattled”). Every song on this CD is a gem, but let me give extra shout outs for their crisp cover of the Hazel Dickens hill country feminist ditty “Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There” and Milnes’s hysterical “Too Many Experts.” The latter says everything you’ve ever thought about when overhearing bar chat but were too timid to vocalize.

The Sweetback Sisters can be favorably compared to Hot Club of Cowtown and, like their material, you’d be hard pressed to find music that ranks higher on the pure fun scale. Brooklyn, eh?

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