CD Review Maverick Magazine
April 2009 by Jim Soars
The Haley Sisters
YET ANOTHER SUPERB RELEASE FROM TWO OF THE MOST
UNDERRATED COUNTRY ROOTS
SINGER SONG WRITERS IN THE UK.
Those of us that attended the inaugural Maverick Festival in 2008 will never forget the
stunning performances by Jo-Ann and Becky - the Haley Sisters.
I watched grown men in tears after listening to their angelic harmonies delivering some
of the most emotive and heart warming renditions of both covers and their own
The Haley Sisters sure rank as two of the most underrated singers and songwriters in
the UK country and roots scene today.
This newly released EP of six tracks, two of which are original compositions by Becky
and Brian Smith show just how exceptional the two sisters are in delivering a song and
also that they are no slouches when it comes to writing a good lyric.
The EP opens with their version of the Bob Marley penned "Three Little Birds".
Their acoustic version of the classic cut is outstanding as is their version of the Dylan
song "Don't Think Twice". "You Keep Me Hanging On" by the great JJ Cale also gets
the Haley Sisters treatment and what a treat it is.
Brian Smith is a superb guitarist and is the perfect accompaniment to Becky and Jo-Ann;
his slide work on this track is stunning. Bill Staines is a great songwriter and the sisters'
vocal on his song "Roseville Fair" is a joy to the ear.
Brian gets his chance to shine on the instrumental title track "Vicissitude";
his acoustic lead over the two rhythm guitars is exceptional, guitar mastery of the
Final track "We're Together", written by Becky and Brian says it all, superb playing,
singing and song writing all combining on this emotional heartfelt ballad.
The Haleys will once again be playing at the Maverick Festival this year and
I for one will be on the front row - NOT TO BE MISSED!
Lloyd Coles “No Boundaries” via email :-
Hi Becky, Thank you for the album, one of the best, if not the best home produced
albums of the year.
The interpretation of 'GUILTY' can stand alongside BONNIE RAITT'S VERSION
anytime. great to hear you all in such fine form,
yours sincerly, Lloyd Coles.
(SWANSEA SOUND, PRESELLI FM, CLEDDAU FM)
Larry Alderman, JUNE 12,2006 NASHVILLE, TN,
ALDERSONG MUSIC, INC REVIEW OF The Haley Sisters.. "No Boundaries"
This latest cd from the Haley Sisters is a refreshing return to "real music".
In an era when there is a lot of great music out there,
this one stands out by having the rootsy sound of the Johnny Cash, Carter Family genre.
Becky and Jo-Ann have both over the years mellowed into two beautiful song-birds.
One can hear in their voices, all the "Hard Days Nights" that they have put into their
careers to share their great talent with all of us.
When they sing "Hello Stranger", I am suddenly back home in the North Carolina
mountains where the mist rises to the summit of the BlueRidge heights and the
first settlers sang a mournful song on the cabin porch.
Their cover of "I'll Be Your San Antone Rose" is a classic of a classic.
Brian Smith gives us something usually missing in albums today,
with his instrumental,"Kirsty's Song".
The Brian Smith style reminds me of Johnny Cash's orginal guitar player Luther Perkins,
with a good helping of ol' Waylon Jennings thrown in.
"Peace in the Valley" and "The Sweetest Gift" let the girls show off their talent that I would
compare to Emmlou Harris and Dolly Parton and also reminds a rockin' rebel hillbilly like me
that "God" is watching and ever present!
These songs take me back to a "church in the wildwood" and the guitars ring out like
Thank you Becky, Jo-Ann and Brian for some great music Ya'll!
Larry Alderman...Aldersong Music...Nashville, Tn. 2006
Larry Alderman is an award winning Nashville songwriter with such credits as the song
· "AMERICANA" by Moe Bandy
· nominated for CMA song of the year.
· The chart topping "REAL GOOD FEEL GOOD SONG" by Mel Mcdaniel.
Larry's songs have been recorded by
· Travis Tritt,
· John Michael Montgomery,
· Loretta Lynn,
· George Jones,
· Hank Williams Jr.and many others.
· His most current hit is "That's What I Like About You"
John M. Montgomery.
Alan Cackett May 30th, 2006 Maverick Magazine
The Haley Sisters “No Boundaries”
The very best from the UK country music scene deliver the finest album yet of their
15 year career
The Haley Sisters are the great undiscovered natural talent of the UK music scene.
They are popular on the moribund British country club circuit where the majority of punters
appear to lack any genuine musical taste and seem quite oblivious to these two Yorkshire
girls superb vocal talent.
Trying to break out of that scene into the more serious listening venues is no easy task,
but Jo-Ann and Becky just might make the transition with this quite extraordinary album.
In previous albums they’ve felt the need to cater for the somewhat myopic line-dance brigade.
With NO BOUNDARIES they appear to have stuck two fingers defiantly in the air to their
wishes of certain beats-to-the-inch and made a stripped-down acoustic-based album in which the
song lyrics are paramount and the vocals are out-front where they should be.
Most of the songs are well-known, but the renditions are as fresh as a cold mountain stream in a heatwave.
They open on a strong note with the Carter Family’s Hello Stranger.
The vocal give-and-take is magical. Spare backup. Nice slide guitar
work that echoes their heartfelt phrases with a pure country delivery.
So pure it’s almost unbelievable.
There’s also a fine version of Townes Van Zandt’s timeless Pancho & Lefty,
which owes nothing to the many earlier renditions. A
stunning version of Ketty Lester’s Love Letters caught me completely left-footed.
A highly refreshing and innocently delivered vocal by Becky with much lyrical meaning.
Another, at first odd choice, is Randy Newman’s Guilty. A strong vocal with a bluesy undertone and
stunning guitar work from Becky’s husband Brian Smith, this is a worldclass performance.
Then there’s a lighter interlude with Tom Petty’s Thing About You,
a highly sensual treatment that is quite irresistible.
I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose, a country hit for Dottsy exactly 30 years ago, is given a much needed
contemporary workout. Jo-Ann takes the lead, their harmonies sent chills through me and some
spooky guitar effects by Brian adds much to the fine arrangement.
Brian also offers Kirsty’s Song, which in fact is an instrumental and is mighty good.
As is the whole of this quite incredible album that sits up there with
finest works of the likes of Emmylou, Suzy Bogguss and Trisha Yearwood.
Seek out and enjoy. You’ll not be disappointed. AC (Alan Cackett)
Album review from www.maverick-country.com the country/roots magazine
The Haley sisters: Vicissitude
Posted by John (Biscuits and Gravy) Davy on December 19, 2010
The Haley Sisters are Yorkshire girls who've been performing together for twenty years or so,
garnering a lot of plaudits along the way; on this evidence, they should be as well known as their
near-neighbour Kate Rusby because this is really great music making.
Beside Roseville Fair they perform three other covers.
A complete re-imagining of Bob Marley's Three Little Birds make it sound as if Iris de Ment wrote it
and this works really well, it's so sweet and gentle.
I'm not familiar with the JJ Cale song covered here, You Keep Me Hanging On,
but it flows like a languid stream on a summer's day; there's no sign of the trademark Cale shuffle
which must surely be on the original, so I find it difficult to imagine what that sounds like but the sisters' version
sounds just fine. Covering Dylan's 'Don't Think Twice' is kind of brave I suppose, given the competition,
but this is an exemplary version; they inhabit the song and give it an air of gentle, very feminine, regret -
it's easily the best version I've heard by a female singer, and that statement most definitely includes
Joan Baez. The title track is a cracking, lively instrumental tune written by Brian Smith who seems to
have been playing alongside the sisters for most of their career and they certainly sound as if they know
each other inside out, musically speaking.
Vicissitude closes with a dreamy little song, 'We're Together',
written by Brian and "R Smith"; no details given, but I'd guess that would be Brian's wife.
The band have recorded and produced this album themselves
and made an excellent job of making a clear, warm sound, true to the use of acoustic instruments.
It really is an excellent mini-album and certainly whets the appetite for seeing The Haley Sisters live;
checking on their website I find they're only gigging in the north of England over the winter
but maybe they'll be venturing further afield in the summer. Here's hoping.
AlwaysBy My Side / Somewhere Along The Road / I’m Looking For Someone (Just Like You) / Hello Dad / Luckiest Girl / Can’t Walk Away From The Blues / Letter To My Heart / Travelin’ Soldier / Song For Jim / Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone) / If I Had My Time Over Again Producer: Becky Smith Comet Records 40:27
It’s hard to remember that British country existed before the Shires and Ward Thomas.
But it did, and Jo-Ann and Becky Haley were among the leaders of the pack.
They recorded in Nashville and took the Best Band trophy home from the British Country Music Awards in 1996, ‘99 and 2000. Not that it brought them the kind of attention the Shires enjoy today. I guess you could say they were British Country before British Country was cool.
But, as much as I admire what The Shires have done to make country big in the UK, and as much as I liked their quirky early songs like Nashville Grey Skies, I sure wish their latest, incredibly bland Nashville pop album sounded a hell of a lot more like this beautiful disc by Yorkshire’s queens of country.
What does this CD sound like? Well, brace yourself folks, because here’s a novelty:
It sounds country, through and through. For once, no other word comes to mind.
The music is acoustic, with a bluegrass flavour to the stripped down instrumentation, but it’s bluegrass that sounds more identifiably country than bluegrass, in the way that Dolly Parton’s music generally does.
Next to the music on the American country charts, you could say it’s old fashioned, harking back to the middle of the road country pop of the 1970s, but I would prefer to call it timeless, helped by the fact that nearly all the songs are self-penned and sound fresh and new.
The countriness perhaps comes from the understated vocals which, in their sweet girl-next door way generates far more warmth and engagement than the over-emoting auto-tuned divas we hear on so many discs today.
I have to confess that I don’t recall hearing the sisters back in the day, but I became an instant fan with the Dolly-like Somewhere Along The Road, a tremendously country-sounding gentle foot-tapper with a pleasing melody and a lot of soul.
Other goodies include the jazzy bluegrass of I’m Looking For Someone (Just Like You), the pedal steel-laced Letter To My Heart and Song For Jim, with it’s accordion touches from Ireland’s new Daniel, Nathan Carter.
Of the two covers, I would say the girls’ plaintive vocals on Travelin’ Soldier beat the Dixie Chicks in making the love story sound true, while David Allan Coe’s Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone) is always worth a revival.
The showstopper, though, is Hello Dad, a moving address to a late father (“What’s it like in your world?”) That is sweetly sentimental in the way that only country can be.
Pre-Shires British country has always been largely disregarded, but this album is much more country than The Shires and sounds just as relevant.
On May 28, The Haley Sisters will be supporting Nathan Carter at the London Palladium.
On the strength of this album, I’d rather be there than any of the C2C shows so far.
Country Music People May Issue 2017 Web: http://cmpcountry.com