You can’t beat a great backstory. Andrew deBuys, a.k.a. Rathbone, was an aspiring songwriter teaching at a girls’ private school in post-K New Orleans when he took on a new pupil and equally aspiring vocalist named Sophia Preston. Sophia is all of 13. This did not stop them from collaborating.
That’s right: This folk-pop duo comes by its twee honestly. Together they’ve crafted a longish yet surprisingly not mawkish EP about the aftereffects of Katrina, which destroyed Andrew’s family home and which Sophia probably doesn’t remember all that well, having been three. The combination works, but probably not for the reasons you’d figure; yes, she sounds as if she’s reassuring the child in him on “Rathbone’s Nightmare #2,” and her innocence seems to prop up his weariness on “We Will Live Again #3,” just as his father figure urges her to let change happen in its own time.
Yet Sophia, who is nevertheless blessed with a remarkably clear and angelic instrument, neither looks nor sings her age. No fake world-weariness, either; she simply remains unselfconscious about what the world wants innocence to sound like. As a result, “We Will Live Again” and “Cassidy” are uptempo and polished enough to make the indie pop charts, but they sound genuine for all that—there are times on the tellingly named So Long Storyland where you can hear the death of the old city and the birth of the new one at the same time. Bittersweet doesn’t really describe it; the music’s quiet, brave acceptance of change sounds like it comes from an ancient time. Like the face of their home, it’s going to be equally interesting to see how this new construct works out.