For the Beerworth Sisters, there is musicality in everyday family life: the patter of little feet running in the sunshine; the soft, soothing tone of a sympathetic sibling's word; the sound of a father's voice and a mother's tears. All these visceral moments are represented on the Vermont-based duo's latest record, Looking Back.
The album is such an intimate exploration of the joys and sorrows a family holds that it could only be created by people who share in this intimacy outside the recording studio. Of course, Anna Pepin and Julia Beerworth do. The two women have been close for more than two decades: Beerworth is married to Pepin's brother, and they have been bandmates for the past 12 years. As the record's title suggests, the two have a lot of history.
There's a line from the Beerworth-penned track "Grey to Gold" that perfectly captures the journey on which Looking Back takes listeners. Beerworth sings, "I found a book of photos from a time so long ago that show glimpses of my childhood, the house on Shaw Hill Road." In eight original tracks on the nine-track album, Beerworth and Pepin bring us in close, inviting us to share in these glimpses.
Lingering on the past can be a dangerous game: One risks indulging in unchecked nostalgia or even revisionist history. But Pepin and Beerworth prove to be expert time travelers through the powerful allure of their lyrics and harmonies. Looking Back possesses a certain magic that one associates with childhood wonders such as belief in fairies and wishing on stars.
On "Childhood" Pepin and Beerworth sing, "Take me back to my childhood when I could run without my shoes / And I would fly a kite in an open sky / And think to myself, what a wonderful time." In an act of grace, they transport listeners back to that time, even as they are full of yearning themselves.
While childhood is a central theme of Looking Back, the record is also firmly planted in an adult's world. Tracks such as "Fine Whiskey" and "Firewood" are a lover's reflections, more concerned with how the past interrupts the present than figuring out how to return to it.
The album ends with a poignant cover of "Auld Lang Syne." The Robert Burns-penned lyrics open with a famous question: "Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?" The Beerworth Sisters handle these words tenderly, as if to affirm the value in choosing not to forget. After spending time with Looking Back, it's hard for listeners not to do the same.
Listen to Looking Back on Spotify.