Digging into Another Year, the latest album from indie-folk duo the Beerworth Sisters, it would be tempting to muse on the mysteries of "blood harmony" — the ear-tingling phenomenon that sometimes occurs when family members sing together. Think of the close, twining harmonies of the Everly Brothers or the Carter Family. Indeed, you'll find no shortage of opportunities throughout the album's eight songs to marvel at the beauty of Anna Pepin and Julia Beerworth's delicate, interweaving vocal work.
From the Beerworth-penned opener, "Burning Light," through Pepin's loving benediction and ode to motherhood, "A Song for Jack," the record exudes just the sort of rustic, familial warmth that causes blood-harmony mystics to swoon.
Except for one thing: Pepin and Beerworth aren't blood relatives.
The two are family, mind you: Beerworth is married to Pepin's brother, and the two singers have been close for 21 years and bandmates for 10. So those complementary vocal timbres are a product of friendship and practice — which brings up a thorny nature-versus-nurture argument we don't have time for here. However, the women's songwriting does share DNA, even if these sisters from other misters don't. And their voices really do seem made for one another, genetics be damned.
Those qualities converge for a number of small musical miracles throughout Another Year. The album's second cut, "Lord Take My Sorrow Away," is one such moment. With eddying acoustic guitars, churning strings, blooming harmonies and a simple, hopeful message, the song is pure comfort given musical form. Since it was penned long before the pandemic, Pepin couldn't have intended the song as respite from our current sorrows, specifically. But it works that way nonetheless.
In an email, Beerworth writes that some songs on Another Year were five years in the making but that all were "shaped by our personal experiences as mothers, daughters, sisters and life itself." That influence is evident throughout the record, but perhaps nowhere more than in the title track. Penned by Beerworth, the song plays like flipping through a yellowing family photo album, its nostalgia and homey imagery brought to life through stirring harmonies.
The Beerworth Sisters recorded the album with Colin McCaffrey at the Greenroom, his East Montpelier studio. The producer's delicate fingerprints are evident all over, from pristine production to immaculate playing. McCaffrey contributes guitars, dobro, mandolin, piano and strings. He also harmonizes like he's part of the family — or at least the band.
McCaffrey's aesthetic contributions are indispensible, but Another Year succeeds on the elegance and charm of Beerworth and Pepin. As songwriters, the two explore life, love and family in a way that's heartfelt and thoughtful but never cloying. As vocalists, they harmonize as though they were born to sing together. Perhaps they were.
Another Year is available at thebeerworthsisters.bandcamp.com.
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