Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tin Angels with Wings

The last time the Chapin Sisters played Philly it was at the Green Line Cafe in West Philly. Small crowd, rudimentary sound system. Very intimate and DIY. It was Lily and Abigail's first touring and done without half sister Jessica who had recently left the group amicably to better focus on her roles as wife and mother. In the time since, the ladies have toured extensively, working as backing singers on tour with Harper Simon at the beginning of this year and then with She & Him throughout the Spring and Summer.

They've been touring as headliners since September and the release of their album "Two" - a reference to this being their sophomore release and their now being a duo.

As they took the stage at the Tin Angel (with mom and dad [Tom] Chapin in the house -- they'd driven down from Piermont NY to lend them a car to drive to East Coast dates with) it was clearly a much more seasoned Chapin Sisters. While they had not in any way becomed slicker or pat, they'd clearly picked up a lot experience and stage craft.

Abigail and her sister were obviously at home stage, joking between songs to cover tune-up time, sharing tidbits about their year of living on the road and otherwise engaging the audience's attention and never letting it slacken.

Their singing was powerful throughout with their harmonies being flawless and often quite daring. Rather than harmonies with simple, obvious intervals most often Lily would stake out the lower registers and sing in obvious counterpoint to Abigail's high flying vocals -- letting them pretty much cover the same amount of vocal territory as they had as a trio.

As usual one is struck by their writing - lots of catchy tunes but the lyrics consistently, dark, rueful, ironically witty. So you get a nice balance between the sweet and bitter as opposed to most other latterday Ladies of the Canyon who basically are spinning cotton candy through and through.

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