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Sweetback Sisters ‘Looking for a Fight’ at the Opera House

November 7, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Touring with their latest album, the Sweetback Sisters bring their swinging country sound to the Pocahontas County Opera House stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Tickets are $10. Children 17 and younger are admitted free of charge.

Sweetback Sisters Emily Miller and Zara Bode may not be blood relations, but their precise, family-style harmonies recall the best of country music from the Everlys to The Judds, as well as the spirited rockabilly energy of Wanda Jackson - one of the band's role models.

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Sweetback Sisters Emily Miller and Zara Bode bring their unique sound to the Pocahontas County Opera House at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Like the artists they admire, the Sweetbacks are concerned with the traditional subjects of heartbreak, revenge, remorse and staying strong in the face of relationships gone wrong - albeit with a contemporary sensibility.

"We're a renegade retro band that mixes up country, swing and honky tonk," explains Bode. "Sometimes what we deliver is straight out of the 1950s; other times it's BR549 meets The B52s."

The Sisters have been touring relentlessly since they released "Chicken Ain't Chicken" in 2009. Their new CD, "Looking For A Fight" showcases the band's razor-sharp musicianship, complex arrangements and growing confidence as songwriters.

"We tried to recreate the energy we get when we connect with an audience over the course of a song," Bode says. "The basic tracks were all done live, and we recorded most of the vocals with Emily and I crowded around one microphone. It gave the tracks a certain intimacy."

The songs were cut onto analogue tape to capture the classic touch the band brings to the music.

"We weren't looking for perfection, just takes that truly felt good and really grooved," Miller adds. "Tape gives the songs a warm texture, and we blended old techniques and equipment with modern ones to get the sound and feel we were going for. The RCA ribbon mic we used for the vocals once belonged to the old Columbia Studios. I'd bet a dime that Miles Davis and Johnny Cash played into the very same one."

Like their raucous stage show, "Looking For A Fight," balances yesterday's hits from Patsy Cline to Hazel Dickens with contributions from the band's four songwriters, Bode, Miller, Bellenoit and Elkins-native fiddler Jesse Milnes. While the music may be energetic and sassy, sentiments of heartache, loss and longing are dominant.

"Those are the themes that make country songs resound with listeners," Miller says. "We didn't only want to make a classic-sounding record, but a classic-feeling record as well."

The music of the Sweetback Sisters includes a few subtle surprises - ensemble vocals a la the Sons of the Pioneers on "Cowboy Ham and Eggs," honky tonk piano on "It Won't Hurt When I Fall Down From This Bar Stool," the raw passion of Bode's vocal on Hazel Dickens' old-time ballad "Don't Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There." On "Looking For a Fight," the Sisters and their talented brothers continue to forge their own sound by delivering arrangements that combine the soul of classic Nashville with an undeniably contemporary edge.

Tickets are $10. Children 17 and younger are admitted free of charge.

Doors at the Opera House open at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are available in advance at and at the 4th Avenue Gallery in Marlinton.

The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Avenue in Marlinton. Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.

The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Financial support for this concert is also provided by Pocahontas County Drama, Fairs and Festivals, Pendleton Community Bank, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Kellison-Bialek Nationwide Insurance and Brightside Acres.



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