Breezy, polished country pop harmonies from the Canadian pair.
Ninian Dunnett 2012-01-10
The wave of female duos bubbling up with the Americana label as the new century wears on owes as much to 60s pop as any rootsy leanings. Madison Violet’s 2012 release shows off many of the genre’s buoyant virtues, too, even if it doesn’t rise above the tide of pretty twosomes.
Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac (whose brother is the maverick Celtic-rock fiddler Ashley MacIsaac) hail from the fertile singer-songwriter heartland of Canada. After some years of obscurity their 2009 album, No Fool for Trying, earned them recognition and awards there. And there are plenty of sweet hooks among the up-tempo tunes that carry this follow-up’s downbeat lyrics; fellow Ontario native Ron Sexsmith has a writing hand in the typically lovelorn Fallen by the Wayside.
The production is intimate and uncluttered, though there are no surprises about the string bass and finger-picked guitar, wistful harmonica, choogling brushes on the drums and occasional strings. The misfit here – and the standout effort – is the lusty traditional hoedown Cindy Cindy, whose time-honoured craft makes its newly-written neighbours sound gauche, as well as rousing the fieriest contribution from the instrumentalists: “If I was an apple, hanging on a tree / Every time my Cindy passed she’d take a bite of me.”
Really, though, this stuff is just a whisker away from the easy listening country pop of the late 60s and early 70s (and a cheerful showbiz tradition that stretches all the way back through the sisters Beverley and Andrews.) It doesn’t take much imagination to picture MacEachern and MacIsaac in matching cheesecloth on the Val Doonican Show.
But the standard for country-pop harmony vocals was set long before even that – and with male voices, too. So while the flood of singing sisters, cousins and girlfriends may be shaping its own great talents, listeners who hanker for a little more salt in the water may yet find themselves drifting back in the direction of “E” for Everly.