Featuring three great voices and just one birthday, anything the Haden Triplets do together is in the truest sense a family project, but the trio are pushing the concept forward on their second album together, 2020's The Family Songbook. The main focus of this project is the truly stellar close harmony singing of Petra Haden, Rachel Haden, and Tanya Haden, who in the great folk and country tradition mesh their voices in a way only shared DNA can make possible. Their brother Josh Haden (who leads the group Spain) also plays on the album and wrote one song, and even more to the point, four tunes were written by Carl E. Haden, their paternal grandfather who was a successful C&W songwriter and drafted their dad, Charlie Haden, into the family band years before Charlie became one of the most respected and innovative bassists in jazz. There's a sweetness and gentle sadness in the Carl E. Haden numbers that seems to especially inspire the sisters, even on the once-topical, now curious "Memories of Will Rogers," and though Woody Jackson's production is suitably unobtrusive, the best tracks here tend to be the ones that have been dressed up the least. Bill Frisell, Doyle Bramhall, Greg Leisz, and Don Was are among the accompanists on these sessions, and they have the good sense to not dominate the tracks. They lend artful support while staying out of the spotlight, and the a cappella take on "Pretty Baby" is sublime, as emotionally eloquent as anyone could hope for. (The set also includes a cover of "Say You Will" that's the great indie folk Kanye West remake you never knew you needed.) The Family Songbook sounds pleasingly simple on the surface, though closer inspection confirms this is an album of tremendous craft that achieves its effects in a way that camouflages the effort that went into its creation, allowing us to simply appreciate the beauty. In a family full of world-class musicians, the Haden Triplets live up to their high standards on The Family Songbook, and one hopes the sisters' schedules will permit them to make another album sooner rather than later.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming