What possible street cred could there be in a roots-country record sung by three New York-born, Los Angeles-reared sisters and produced by a guy who grew up surrounded by the surf and sand of Santa Monica? Plenty, as it turns out, when the singers are Petra, Tanya and Rachel Haden, the triplet daughters of jazz bass luminary Charlie Haden, and that producer happens to be Ry Cooder.
The Americana and world music devotee, who also plays guitar and mandolin on this set of vintage country, country-folk and country-gospel songs, makes it a double-family affair with the added presence of his son, drummer Joachim Cooder, a longtime friend and musical associate of the Hadens.
It’s worth knowing that before the triplets' dad earned his stripes in the jazz world, Charlie spent many formative years traveling and performing country music with his family throughout the Midwest -- a personal history he tapped in his 2008 album, “Rambling Boy,” for which Tanya and Rachel were along for the musical ride.
So, no big surprise that his offspring absorbed a fondness for the unvarnished emotionalism of songs they tackle here such as the Carter Family’s “Single Girl, Married Girl,” the 1955 Kitty Wells hit “Making Believe” and the Louvin Brothers’ existentially heartbreaking “When I Stop Dreaming.” They’re not utterly rooted in old-timey selections: They also take on Nick Lowe’s sweet “Raining Raining."
Cooder’s production is fittingly raw, putting no phony gloss on these songs brimming with heart-on-sleeve honesty. Petra Haden has create a small cottage industry with multitracked recordings showcasing the range and versatility of her own voice, but in tandem with her sisters, the trebled vocal lines bring to bear the power of family harmony that’s long been an important foundation of traditional country music. The Haden Triplets connect with and carry on that tradition marvelously.
The Haden Triplets
“The Haden Triplets”
Third Man Records
Three and a half stars (out of four)
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