After appearing in Hadestown as The Fates, it’s fitting that the Haden Triplets are releasing their new record at the same time as Anaïs Mitchell’s new project Bonny Light Horseman. Like that album, The Family Songbook also takes old songs, passed down through generations of their musical family and reinterprets them in a uniquely different style.
Family bands are special. For me there’s nothing better than the harmony (and occasional tension too) that comes from sharing musical blood. Rachel Haden, in a recent interview with Uncut magazine explained more about the connection these sisters have, saying: “It’s an unconditional love kind of thing, where I know I always have them. I feel the most confident when I sing with my sisters. When I sing alone I feel there’s something missing.”
This album showcases that bond and strength in musical sisterhood. Opening song Wayfaring Stranger is inspired by the legacy of their father Charlie Haden, who also covered the tune. There’s something intoxicating about this version, an eerie echo chamber created from the mix of their voices.
Who Will You Love was written by their grandfather Carl E. Haden and this is a classic old time country song which transports us to another, simpler era. Three other songs on the record were also written by him including cool cowboy tribute Memories of Will Rogers and the stunning Ozark Moon, which has a cinematic vintage style to its narrative.
The triplets aren’t afraid to cover modern music either, as there is an unexpected Kanye West song included. In their hands Say You Will is like the creepy soundtrack to some old timey horror movie, exposing the unsettling obsessive nature of his lyrics.
An obvious reference point for a group like this is the Carter Family and in fact the Triplets’ grandfather was actually a friend of theirs. They cover their song Wildwood Flower, and the results are heavenly.
Even a song like I’ll Fly Away, which you think could hardly be bettered after Allison Krauss and Gillian Welch’s version becomes something distinctly different in the triplets’ hands. It’s as though instead of becoming birds the girls transform into ghostly apparitions, preparing to haunt the skies forever.
The songs are sepia-tinged and slightly unsettling at times but the overall atmosphere created by this album is exquisite in any era.