Laurie & John

Arabella

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Arabella, named after a street outside Laurie and John Stirratt's hometown of New Orleans, alternates between songs penned individually and as a duo. The twin siblings' first full-length release together anchors on acoustic guitars and vocals, pulling soft harmonies, keys, and colors into the mix with ease. Sparkling and celebratory with its rich pop arrangements, the music here moves beyond the earthy, spare, and sultry quality of the duo's folkier live sets. With Laurie & John joined in the studio by familiar personalities from the Autumn Defense and Wilco, a sense of community is fittingly woven into the record, and Arabella sits comfortably in the body of work spanning the Stirratts' respective careers. In the opening track, "Ten Years Ago Today," Laurie's sweet and pure vocals steal the show wherever they appear, and in harmony, the Stirratts have the lilting subtlety of the Everly Brothers. Vintage organs pierce the afternoon haze like beams of winter sunlight and a pedal steel sighs always from a distance, like the ego tending to the id, with occasional baritone guitar adding a heavier step. Pat Sansone brings his characteristic arsenal of keyboards to the album, such as Moog on the rousing "A Merciful Night," a cut reminiscent of mid-'70s productions by the likes of Arif Mardin. Minor-key melodies in vocal harmony recall the Mamas & the Papas on "If I Hadn't Blinked My Eyes," while other moments on the album have the mellow sun coast aesthetic of America or Mojave 3. Both Stirratts have a clarity in their voices that creates a sense of innocence and optimism, yet their musicality and the effortlessness of the production makes this a work of artistic maturity. Throughout Arabella, John's poetic abstractions counter Laurie's earnest reflections -- on dreams, hard-won wisdom, and the solace therein -- together mapping the geography of the soul.

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