Black Music Matters Festival

The Chapin Sisters

Tomorrow's Not Today – 2015 (Lake Bottom)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

See it on Amazon

CDs by The Chapin Sisters

With apologies to the Carter/Cash and Williams clans, you won't find any better proof that music lives in DNA than the Chapin family. There's Tom, the Grammy-winning children's artist, and brother Harry, the late '70s folk legend. The whole family does tribute, benefit and holiday shows. Even Mary Chapin Carpenter's a distant relation. Here we turn to Abigail and Lily, Tom's daughters, who are the sole remaining members of the Chapin Sisters group (stepsister Jessica left for motherhood). They released an Everly Brothers cover record more recently, but this is their first set of originals in five years.

The ladies moved from California to New York during this span and decided they missed the Golden State enough to bring it back, both physically and musically. Recorded outside of L.A., this album aims for harmonizers from the California "scene" of the late '60s and '70s. It's certainly atmospheric, right from the get-go. "Autumn" calls to mind the sound of Shawn Colvin, with a slow-paced organ progression and slightly eerie background vocals. The jangly "Angeleno" that follows clears the air effectively with its country/western twang. Abigail, on lead, has the prettier, high voice; but Lily's is more distinctive and agile. Together, they harmonize like only gifted and related people can - the record really is something of a master class in finding perfect companion notes to whatever's playing.

Lyrically, the theme of impermanence appears often - change will come and not always for cause. "Chasing the Rain," perhaps the strongest track, offers the resignation, "Can't tell you why I do the things I do to you." As the record progresses, melody gets abandoned for mood, landing with a thud on the downright dull "Waiting." But the sisters rally at the close with their activist anthem, "We Will Not Stop." With this pedigree, a good song is never that far away.