When last we saw the sisters Janis Oliver and Kristine Arnold about 16 years ago, they had basically left the music business after Oliver was hit with a major case of writer's block after she and Vince Gill divorced. The sisters had sung together since they were young girls, gaining a following as the Oliver Sisters. Little wonder after a few years, they began to perform at an annual together on the day after Thanksgiving at Nashville's famed Bluebird Cafe. For the most part, though, Oliver stayed out of the music scene.
"It got me all fired up being out there singing in front of people again and I wanted my sister with me," said Arnold who had joined a small band. "I told her 'We have to focus and do an album together.'"
And what an album this is filled with songs that the sisters, who worked alone on the recording before enlisting Dave Pomeroy to co-produce "Restless." The songs they chose, many written by Arnold, are described by the sisters as vignettes that tell the story of their current lives that include marriage, children and contentment.
"I think more in this case than at any other time Kristine and I were of the mind to do something that felt very natural, songs we believed in," said Oliver who wrote and co-wrote many of the new songs. "More than ever, this project was a labor of love. We started from scratch, completely from scratch. We built the CD one song at a time. We contacted some companies and started having songs pitched to us and Janis started writing [and co-writing] songs."
The results are rootsy country tunes such as “You Can’t Hold Me Back,” and “Too Little Too Late" some rockabilly such as on "You Can't Hold Me Back," with plenty of steel guitar throughout. The sound is classic Sweethearts of the Rodeo, but deeper, more mature, more heartfelt.
A stand-out track is fan favorite "Maybe Tonight" that Oliver wrote with ex-husband Vince Gill toward the end of their relationship. She and Gill have developed a friendship over the years, said Oliver, so revisiting the song that Gill had previously recorded wasn't uncomfortable. In fact, she said, hearing her sister give it a different vocal slant gave it a completely different slant.
"It is a bittersweet thing. Even writing that song was bittersweet," she said, nothing she and Gill are now good friends that regularly see each other. "When I heard Kristine sing it - she's got this soulful country thing going - it just seemed the perfect time to record it.
If you have lived any number of years you've been in a relationship or two and had your heart broken. Some of those might make you hold a grudge, but most give you nothing but great memories. It's ok to talk about all of those things. Women our age are a little more fearless in the subject matter than they were previously. It was fun to feel that freedom of lyrical content."
Whether you're just discovering or rediscovering Sweethearts of the Rodeo, the sisters' richly textured music will pull you right into their warmly welcoming inner circle.
Find out more about Sweethearts of the Rodeo and their just-released album "Restless," on their official website.
Watch the Sweethearts of the Rodeo perform "Gone to Kentucky" from their album "Restless" -