The Chenille Sisters

The Chenille Sisters

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The Chenille Sisters, non-siblings Cheryl Dawdy, Connie Huber, and Grace Morand from Ann Arbor, MI, are a talented trio who sound not quite ready for the recording studio on their self-titled debut album. That judgment is not rendered due to their vocal talents, since they are a good harmony group with both a nice blend and a sense of how to build and vary their parts. Rather, the impression that they needed to wait a little longer to make a record comes from the album's track selection, which looks very much like it must re-create their set list. There is a little of everything: 1920s tunes rendered with appropriate good humor in Irving Berlin's post-prohibition tribute to a still-wet country south of the border, "I'll See You in C-U-B-A," and "Dinah"; a cappella treatments of rock & roll tunes like a medley of the Beatles' "Tell Me Why" and the Cookies' "Chains" (also done by the Beatles, of course) and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"; originals; and borrowings from other contemporary folk acts Christine Lavin and Uncle Bonsai. It is those last selections that particularly give one pause. No doubt Lavin's comically caustic boyfriend diatribe "Regretting What I Said" and Uncle Bonsai's "Suzy" go down well live, as they do for the artists who wrote them, but they also belong to those artists' repertoires and didn't need to be recorded by the Chenille Sisters. The group's own originals are more problematic because they are so out of keeping with the generally humorous tone of the rest of the material. When Dawdy's "Wildbird," with its formal language, sounding like a traditional folk song, appears as the fifth track, it follows four songs that are either outright comic or at least smile-inducing, and puts a damper on the proceedings. And Huber's "19th Floor," an attack on anti-abortion fundamentalists that claims the religious high ground, really wipes the smiles off faces, whether listeners agree with the song's argument or not. Maybe the Chenille Sisters should have waited to come up with a whole album's worth of their own originals, or maybe, like many first albums, this one is too ambitious in trying to present the artists' range. There is much to like about the Chenille Sisters on The Chenille Sisters and much promise for the future. But they haven't quite put it all together this time.

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