By Hal Horowitz
The key to the album’s success is not just the wonderful, beautifully crafted songwriting or even the Whitmore Sisters’ stunning vocals. Rather, it’s the years the duo spent honing their craft alone before realising that together, they shared the final piece of the wonderful puzzle.
From the Everly Brothers to the Jacksons, the Beach Boys to the Bee Gees, the Statler Brothers to, more recently, the Secret Sisters, there’s always been something extraordinary about sibling harmonies. It makes it even more unusual then that The Whitmore Sisters - Eleanor and younger sister Bonnie – have waited so long to record together.
Sure, so far both have had busy careers of their own - Eleanor as part of The Mastersons with her husband Chris (who produces this project) and Bonnie as a solo artist with four folk-rocking titles to her name, the most recent from 2020. It’s essentially taken a pandemic to bring them together for this debut collaboration.
The eleven tracks on Ghost Stories, with their often subtle vocal interactions, amass into a natural and inevitable collection. While it’s no surprise that the Whitmore’s cover Paul McCartney’s ‘On the Wings of a Nightingale’, a song written specifically for the Everly’s, the rest of the songs bar one (penned by Aaron Lee Tasjan), are originals.
The sisters weave their sweet voices together for selections that range in theme from socio-political cautiousness (the title track about those sidelined in contemporary society) to personal warning words for a friend who seems to be going off the rails (“Ricky take it easy / Ricky reel it in… You’re out there on the edge, man”).
The sound is full and floating, alternating between bluegrass and Cajun (especially on the fiddle-driven, Byrds-influenced ‘The Ballad of Sissy Porter’) on a widescreen, string-laden ballad like ‘Superficial World of Love’, whose dramatic chorus of “I hope you will still remember me” shimmers with loss and longing.
‘Friends We Leave Behind’ also touches on heartbreak, its title emphasizing the sadness of saying goodbye to those we lose with the understanding that life doesn’t stop; “In my heart I will take you with me / In my heart I will carry on’.
By the time we get to the closing ‘Greek Tragedy’, where the spiralling production, elegant orchestration and the sisters’ graceful singing combine for a lavish moment, it’s clear this harmonious relationship should not be relegated to a one-off side project.
The key to the album’s success is not just the wonderful, beautifully crafted songwriting or even the Whitmore Sisters’ stunning vocals. Rather, it’s the years Eleanor and Bonnie spent honing their craft before realising that together, they shared the final piece of the wonderful puzzle.
It feels like a new beginning. Let’s hope it is.
The Whitmore Sisters' debut album, Ghost Stories, is out now via Red House Records. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below: