Unless you’re among the folks lucky enough to catch The Church Sisters live, you could be excused for not being aware of these talented teens. Sarah and Savannah Church are 16 year old twins, living in Danville, VA, and they seem destined to reach a much wider audience with the release of their second album, There’s You.
I don’t say that simply because they live near me in Southwest Virginia (they do), or since I am acquainted with many of the pickers on the album (I am). Nor because they seem like fine young ladies with a healthy does of cuteness (they do).
No, it’s because of the rare and unique talent they possess as vocalists, that special quality that, as Melvin Goins might say, is borned into you. A first record, Farther Along (released two years ago), demonstrated Sarah and Savannah’s indisputable talent, but the girls lacked the maturity in their voices required to connect to a wider audience.
On There’s You, they display a poise and authority well beyond their years, bringing to mind the first recording from Alison Krauss when she was a wee lass. It may not be fair to brand the Church Sisters with that sort of weighty comparison, but the plain fact is that they are that good – and there are two of them!
Savannah carries the bulk of the lead singing, though the sisters will often trade verses on stage and in the studio. You can tell them apart by their approach as much as their tone; Sarah is a bit more adventurous, adding trills and bluesy bends to her voice, while Savannah’s sound is more covered and unadorned.
See what I mean in this piece of audio from the CD, their take on an old favorite.
Bury Me Beneath The Willow:
For their live shows, Savannah plays fiddle and Sarah mandolin, but for the album they are supported by Adam Steffey on mandolin, Josh Pickett on guitar and bass, Jody King on banjo, and Jeneé Fleenor on fiddle. Their younger brother Seth also joins them on stage, playing guitar, but is not featured on the CD.
While high school requires that the girls stay fairly close to home, they do perform regularly in Virginia and North Carolina, and have attracted the attention of more than a few bluegrass luminaries. Upon hearing about the new record, Rhonda Vincent told us…
“I’m excited to hear The Church Sisters new album. Always love hearing their beautiful voices.”
The girls pay homage to Ms. Vincent on the record, including One Step Ahead Of The Blues, written by Rhonda and Terry Herd, and Carl Jackson’s Homecoming, which has been featured on two of her albums.
Also among the tracks are a pair of hymns (Near The Cross, Master’s Glory), and a few recent Gospel songs that some grassers may recognize (David Davis’ It’s Just An Old Body and My Name Is Judas by Thomas Campbell). Recognizing music recorded in their grandparents era, Hank Snow’s Aching Hearts and the Louvin Brothers’ Angels Rejoice find a place here as well.
A real standout is the title track, written by Pickett, which shows that these youngsters have a flair for more contemporary material as well.
At present, the CD is only available from the Church Sisters’ web site, but is expected to show up in iTunes in the very near future.
They also have a substantial presence on YouTube, with a number of live performances captured on video. Here they are accompanied by Josh and Seth, singing I Wandered By A Brookside, an old English ballad they contributed to the Mark Twain: Words & Music CD.
If you have a fondness for sibling harmony, or just appreciate first rate singing, don’t miss the chance to become acquainted with The Church Sisters. They really are that good… but I repeat myself.
About the Author (Author Profile)
John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.
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