[2 June 2013]
Conceptually, this is a no-brainer. Take the songs of the Everly Brothers, with their beautiful two part sibling harmonies, and recreate them with a pair of sisters who have lovely voices. Specifically, the Chapin Sisters took on 14 songs associated with the boys and recorded them in one day, like they used to do back in the early rock and roll era. There are a minimum of overdubs and extra orchestrations with the aim of making the album sound distinctly old school. The results are pleasant, but the question remains as to whether this is more packaged nostalgia than creative interpretations.
The Chapin Sisters’ renditions of the material do not vary much from the originals despite their female vocals. Like the Everlys, they offer wistful takes on such classics as “All I Have to Dream” and “Crying in the Rain”. But Abigail and Lily are no Don and Phil. Even when the men sang pensively, there was a sense that they were holding back lest they be overcome with emotions. The women here just sound soft. There is no sense of hidden pain. So when they croon a song such as “Sigh, Cry, Almost Die”, you don’t hear the emotional nuances as much as the vocal ones.
There is a formal beauty to the project. One cannot help but be impressed by the distaff duo’s ambition to recapture the sound of the past. But why? There have been lots of great covers of Everly Brothers’ songs by a host of artists including Rockpile, Simon and Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, Robert Plant, and Allison Krauss, and so on. These musicians kept the Everly Brothers flavor while adding their own distinctive styles to the music. By limiting themselves to facsimile versions, the Chapin Sisters miss the opportunity to do the same. And make no mistake about it, the Chapins are very talented musicians as their previous albums attest. No doubt they could take the material and make it into something new. Just compare any of the versions of “Love Hurts” from disparate artists such as Emmylou Harris, Nazarath, Jim Capaldi, Roy Orbison, and Cher with the more faithful one here. The Chapin Sisters purposely add nothing to the mix.
If they did, it would be another record. This one comes off more as a tribute to the greatness of the Everlys than a showcase for the sisters. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entrants have earned plenty of accolades from luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White, and so forth. The Everlys do not need more honors.
As such, A Date With the Everly Brothers would appeal much more to fans of the Everlys than fans of the Chapins. The songs are lovely; as sweet as cotton candy. But just like too much spun sugar can give one a headache, the album as a whole sounds overly saccharine. The women would do better to craft these songs into something more substantial by putting themselves into the music. Their talents make this album worth hearing, but it could be so much more.