The Rheingans Sisters Already Home
Rootbeat Records (www.rootbeatrecords.com)
From the opening notes of Already Home, the second CD by the Rheingans Sisters, it is quite apparent that we are listening to highly skilled, sensitive and worldly musical talents. Rowan and Anna Rheingans grew up in the village of Gridleford in Derbyshire, England. Their father is a luthier and the cover of Already Home is taken in his workshop in their home. He also made the fiddles they play to this day. Their mother organizes clogging competitions for kids. As a result music was always in the air while growing up. During their teen years, both Anna and Rowan spent years in Sweden, studying traditional fiddle music. This Scandinavian influence is clearly reflected in their music today. Anna now lives full time in France, where she studied traditional music at the Conservatoire in Toulouse, and now plays for dances and teaches fiddle. This strong French musical influence accompanies the Scandinavian and English strains in their music.
Already Home includes the first original songs the sisters have written. "Mackerel" was composed by Rowan, and features both sisters singing some lovely harmonies, with churning fiddles underneath. Anna's wonderful tune "Slangpolska Pour Une Auvergne" is a nod to both her Swedish and French influences. The opening track, "Bourrees" offers some beautiful and sympathetic playing between the sisters on these lovely French tunes. "Peyrat's Cat" sounds like the soundtrack to a short film about a prowling feline looking for hidden treasures. The tune has many surprises, but the cat continues his pursuit.
"Slangpolska Pour Une Auvergne" (excerpt)
Already Home has won some serious accolades in Britain, including two nominations for the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards - one for Rowan's song "Mackerel," nominated for 'Best Original Track,' while their other nomination was for 'Best Newcomers' award. Pretty heady stuff for these young women after recording just their 2nd CD. These BBC awards also carry some serious musical and promotional heft in Britain. The sisters seem quite surprised by the fuss being made over their "lovely little album," but they really shouldn't be. This is a very strong recording full of the wonderful playing and singing that only sibling connections can create. And, you can practically feel the sound of their pure pleasure in playing together.
There was also a fair amount of risk-taking happening with Already Home. The sisters recorded one other CD, back in 2012. They thought Glad Gold Hearts would really only act as a musical introduction, or a gift for friends and relations - a document of their early relationship with folk music. But when it came time to record Already Home four years later, their expectations had grown tremendously.
"Dancing in the Cow Shed" (excerpt)
Rowan sought out the advice of the gifted Scots singer/songwriter Karine Polwart, who said she was very impressed with Rowan's material and encouraged her to continue to write from her own experiences. Anna went back to some of her roots in Scandinavian music, as well as to the French tradition she was now living within. She focused more on her playing and singing, with "Adieu Privas" one of the delicious fruits of her labors. "Cuckoo" is a lovely waltz with some delicate vocals - something only possible after dedication and attention to craft by the sisters, and a strong reflection of their maturity as a musicians. A highlight of the CD is "Dancing in the Cow Shed," a gorgeous, sprightly tune written by Rowan, and which features both sisters' fiddle playing.
Anna and Rowan Rheingans have become real players in the traditional music scenes of both Britain and France. They are maturing by leaps and bounds, creating a new level of expectation for their work. This anticipation is well met by the delivery of this excellent new CD. - David Smith