Rainbow Girls – American Dream (reviewed by Ian O’Regan)

W204Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. Singing close harmony is not easy. In fact it’s damn difficult, and demands the highest level of every skill that a singer possesses to get it anywhere close to being right.

I’m not talking about adding the minor 3rd above the melody and hoping that most of the notes fit. And I’m DEFINITELY not talking about the guy (usually the bass player – why is it always the bloody bass player??) who brings his cheap microphone along when his rock cover band plays out, and “does BVs”.

Hint: if he calls backing vocals “BVs”, he hasn’t got the skills, period!! Let him gurn and pose and throw whatever grunts and howls he wants to at the mic, just for the love of God, don’t turn his volume up!

No, what I’m talking about here is proper Everly Brothers, Beverly Sisters, Crosby Stills Nash & Young close harmonies, where there’s not an atom of space between the different voices, where there is literally one single voice delivering depth and texture and full orchestral harmonic structure with zero apparent effort.

And it’s bloody difficult. And when it’s done right, it is profoundly and endlessly impressive!

And, by the way, if you think that harmony singing is tricky, don’t even get me started on singing in unison! Unison singing is the holy grail of group vocals, and Rainbow Girls have it sorted. Three quite different voices, with quite different qualities, singing a single melody line in such a way that it is impossible to determine how many voices are involved!

And if all the skill, all the technical prowess and wizzardry is put to the task of delivering good songs, be they beautiful plaintive ballads, thought-provoking, subtle-but-effective protest songs, or up-beat mood enhancers, the technical stuff is impressive for about 30 seconds. And then it simply steps aside.

And for the rest of the Rainbow Girls new album, American Dream, or if you’re lucky enough to be present for a performance, the rest of the live show, you’re free to enjoy the songs and the performances for what they should be – music that inspires, evokes, challenges, enthrals and delights.

Previously a full band, but currently recording and touring as a more minimalist trio, Rainbow Girls make close harmony roots/country/americana sound so completely effortless that it’s all but impossible even to imagine them doing something so mechanical or tedious as practicing.

And similarly, the songs on American Dream require no conscious effort whatsoever on the part of the listener. The quality of the songwriting, the natural lyric writing that is easily in the same league as the very best, and the simple beauty of the three voices combine to overwhelm any resistance, and cannot but transport the listener to exactly where the song and the singers wants to take him.

This is a beautiful album, apparently simple, but at the same time rich, subtle, honest and fun – an album that demands lots of repetition, and that should not – must not – be consigned to the chaos and clamour of a background noise rotation playlist on your mp3 player.

On the contrary, this album deserves, and richly rewards, time, consideration and attention.

If you must stack it with other music, mix it with Daylight Again by Crosby Still & Nash, Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Simon & Garfunkle, and Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars. They will be perfect bedfellows.

 

American Dream is out November 2017

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About Dave Franklin

Musician, scribbler, historian, gnostic, seeker of enlightenment, asker of the wrong questions, delver into the lost archives, fugitive from the law of averages, blogger, quantum spanner, left footed traveller, music journalist, zenarchist, freelance writer, reviewer and gemini. People have woken up to worse.
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