The Carper Family’s Old Fashion Gal – CD Review
It’s true. The Carper Family’s new CD Old-Fashioned Gal is anchored in the golden age of country music. But don’t let the title fool you, this is no schmaltzy sentimental journey. Old Fashioned Gal takes us down a familiar road, but the scenery is fresh, the windows are rolled down, and springs are bouncing to the beat.
The first three songs showcase the trio’s strengths and range. On the title cut, bassist Melissa Carper digs into her upbeat swing tune with a Dolly-esque vibrato and a subtle break in her voice that bring the song to life. Shifting the band into bluegrass mode, Guitarist Jenn Miori delivers a heart-melting lead vocal on “Precious Jewel”. Next, fiddler Beth Chrisman’s driving honky tonk shuffle “Foolish Ramblin’ Man” features the big airy twang guitar of former Lost Planet Airman Bill Kirchen. Her stories of heartbreak and loss provide a nice foil to her band mates’ more upbeat songs. (Chrisman’s “Cold Dark and Lonely” was nominated for an Independent Music Award this year.) The song rotation is evenly split between the three – each taking the lead and coloring the tune with their own proclivities.
There’s a playful, quirky side to this band – especially the songs of “Daddy” Carper (as the two somewhat younger members call her). She pulls off a song about “cheatin’ on my old Chevy van” by hitting that sweet spot between humor and dead-seriousness. All three co-wrote “Mr. Fancy Pants”, a jaunty, swinging little character sketch about a low-rent Romeo trolling for romance wearing his vintage duds.
Miori nails a tender version of the Floyd Tillman classic “I Gotta Have My Baby Back.” The song was recorded by many, from Hank Thompson to Ella Fitzgerald, but Miori’s rendition holds up by virtue of her great phrasing and exceptionally warm voice.
The music branches out but never strays too far from home – from the wonderfully spare, mountain modal a cappella song “Aunt Rose” to Neil Young’s “Comes a Time”. But the strong songwriting of Carper and Chrisman are the backbone of the playlist.
Among the exceptional guest players on the album, Cindy Cashdollar tenders gold on a slew of slide guitars. Cashdollar co-produced the CD with Billy Lee Meyers Jr., and their tasteful, punchy production ties together the eclectic mix of songs and songstresses in a seamless piece of work.
Austin is an apt home-base for this versatile trio. Their music brings to mind a whirl on the dance floor at the Broken Spoke, where that distinctly Austin blend of honky tonkers, clean cut two steppers, punks and dreadlocked kids, all swing around in a friendly eclectic hash.
–Michael Cockram with Susan Shore