Over the course of three decades and six albums, the Magnolia Sisters has become an institution of integrity, one not interested in any pop sensibility, but a predilection for vital cultural aspects essential to the genre. This time out, the Sisters salute the ’30s string bands who dropped the accordion to align with its Américain contemporaries on the radio.
“Est-ce que tu penses jamais à moi?” and “Oublies-moi jamais,” in particular, have a rhythmic chugging feel reminiscent of such bands as the Light Crust Doughboys. Jane Vidrine plays a big role in shaping the string band sound, plucking a banjo on the joyous “La bonne vie” and picking a fuzzy honky tonk-ish electric guitar on the bluesy “Hot Stuff,” two quality songs written by fellow Sister Ann Savoy that bookend the proceedings. Additionally Vidrine and Savoy alternate on fiddle, guitar and the hybrid banjolin.
Yet, it’s not all string band-centric. The loud little box has some presence here, whether it’s fully played or just for effects, such as an underlying, tension-filled drone on the haunting “Le deserteur.” The rendition of Canray Fontenot’s “Malinda” features a gorgeous, intricately picked guitar intro before launching into a calypso melody with a chorus sounding like it was sung by a village choir. On two tracks, fiddler Anya Burgess shades in a slight Appalachian persona with her rocking vocals.
Lovely songs and solos aside, nothing’s better than the human voice in its purest form and two cappella ballads are worth the price of admission alone. “Le deserteur,” a tale of a soldier deserting the French army, is bone-chilling with its high, hovering harmonies while “Par derrière chez mon père,” features each Sister taking a verse before joining together on a resounding chorus.