CD REVIEW – The St James Sessions by The Bevvy Sisters

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The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs

The St James Sessions by The Bevvy Sisters

The St James Sessions by The Bevvy Sisters

The Bevvy Sisters are Heather Macleod, Kaela Rowan and Lindsey Black; backed by David Donnelly and James Mackintosh on guitar and drums. They specialise in melodic alt-country tunes, spiritual songs and a sprinkling of doowop numbers, all laden with deliciously mellow vocal harmonies.

Recorded in single takes in St James Hall in Innerleithen, their debut CD captures the essence of their live sound; the Sisters’ harmonies swirling mesmerisingly around the lean and driving guitar and rhythm. Without remixing or retakes, it provides strong evidence of the group’s talent, the songs being tight and well-crafted – both the smattering of cover versions and the original compositions which make up the bulk of the track listing.

Opening with The Bevvy Belltone, the St James Session is an impressive, immediately likable recording. Songs such as Oh Mary Don’t You Weep and Rock My Soul wouldn’t be out of place on a Cohen Brothers soundtrack, so successful are they in evoking the spiritual tones of the deep South.

Other numbers such as their take on Leadbelly’s Cow Cow Yicky Ay Ae and their own composition Draw The Line tread a countrified path, with tales of cowboys, hobos and shattered dreams. There are even a couple of numbers – most notably Sugarfoot Rag, but also the mid-album ‘advertisement’ for Lucky Beer – which evoke the doowop spirits of their almost namesakes, the Beverley Sisters.

Indeed if you held a six gun to my head and forced me to pick fault with the St James Sessions, it is that it lacks a little in cohesion and consistency, swaying from one style to the next – although as a debut release this is forgivable, especially when each song is strong enough to stand on its own.

The Bevvy Sisters

The Bevvy Sisters

Perhaps strongest of all are those tracks which are pared down to the bone, such as 1000 Miles and Fine Lines. Here, the girls’ vocals are given centre stage, and they fill the songs with shivering emotion and soft, seductive beauty. If the Bevvy Sisters were to concentrate on one style and genre alone, I would love it to be this one.

Production values throughout The St James Sessions are high, with the richness of the girls’ harmonies always present without ever dominating; with ample space and level given to the accompanying music, which includes Emma Smith’s double bass on many of the tracks and Donald Hay providing additional percussion on others.

As a debut, it is strong, and should serve the group well as they continue to make all the right impressions. They recently appeared at the Celtic Connections festival; and their schedule looks pretty busy over the coming months, with appearances around Scotland planned to promote this richly alluring and smooth release.

Check out music from The St James Sessions and see what The Bevvy Sisters have planned on their MySpace site – you can purchase the CD at Shoogle Records online store.

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