by Chuck Dauphin
Music has changed a lot to my ears over the years. When I was growing up, the lines between genres were very decided and kind of easy to decipher. Nowadays. it’s not that simple. What was “Country,” back in 1988 might still be Country, but it might also be known as Americana. That’s where you have The Hello Strangers.
Hailing from Pennsylvania, the sister duo of Larissa Chace Smith and Brechyn certainly wouldn’t have been considered mainstream in 1988, as folk-ish cuts on this disc like “Conococheague” hints at. But, there are moments here – like “Runaway,” “What It Takes To Break A Heart,” or “Ruined,” where these ladies conjure up memories of some of the great work of acts like Emmylou Harris and Sweethearts of the Rodeo.
But, all in all, The Hello Strangers don’t need classifications. They are just – for lack of a more sophisticated term – Damn Good. Take a listen to a cut like “Chances,” and if you are not totally hooked by their spellbinding harmony, your hearing must not be working right. It’s a sonically brilliant cut – from start to finish, one that simply needs to be heard. Ditto that for the Appalachian feel of “The World Knows Far Better,” where the harmony is chilling, as is the harmonica work from Brechyn. The sisters even match musical wits and talent with the incredible Jim Lauderdale on his gem “What You Don’t Know,” which they keep as haunting as his 1990s original.
You know what? After thinking about it, we are not defined by what radio plays or doesn’t play anymore. This album is just brilliant…..and deserves to be heard – and heard often. Listen and see if you don’t agree!
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