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The Stairwell Sisters
Get Off Your Money

Review By Steven Stone
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  Old timey music sounds better when women sing it. How's that for a un-P.C. statement? But yo, (the patented "word" from Randy Jackson) it's like the taste of sweet-tarts – when you combine old time funk with mellifluous female vocals it just sounds tastier than the same instrumental parts mated with gruff male voices.

As you might suspect the Stairwell Sisters (who aren't really sisters) play old timey music, but they do it with a twist. Unlike Uncle Earl (another all–female old time music band) who specializes in making the music palatable for contemporary listeners, The Stairwells include as many radicalizing non-traditional influences as possible. When's the last time you heard a Tanzanian song combined with a Virginian fiddle tune? Not recently I'll wager.

The Stairwell Sisters have been making their particular brand of outré acoustic music for a while now. Get Off Your Money is their third release. The five members come from diverse backgrounds. Evie Laden, who plays banjo, feet (clogging figures heavily into the mix), and vocals, was born in that cradle of old time music, suburban New Jersey. Martha Hawthorne plays bass and guitar and used to be a public health nurse. Lisa Berman plays dobro, Hawaiian slide, banjo, and vocals. Her father played in the eclectic ‘60's band Kaleidoscope. Sue Sandlin plays guitar, tiple, jaw harp, harmonica, and vocals. She once served as a bodyguard for Ralph Nader. Stephanie Prausnitz plays fiddle and won second place in the bluegrass banjo competition in Chilliwack, B.C.

Despite their disparate backgrounds the Stairwell Sister's music has a cohesive tribal quality. The arrangements aren't about lead vocals accompanied by a musical background. Instead they create a rustic wall of sound where the backing rhythms are as important as the principal melodic line. This group music approach makes every song they perform, whether it's an interpretation of a Roscoe Holcomb blues or one of their own original tunes, sound organic and ancestral. Want a tonic for modernity? The Stairwell Sisters have a cure for what ails you.

 

 

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