Matthew & Jill Barber The Family Album

Matthew & Jill Barber The Family Album
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The only surprise about sibling singer/songwriters Matthew and Jill Barber recording a duet album is that it has taken so long. The Family Album is a lovely collection of rootsy songs that accurately showcases the sublime vocal harmonies that seem to come so effortlessly to the pair.
 
Three originals from Jill and two from Matthew reaffirm their songwriting talent, while the outside material is generally well chosen (though Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You" has perhaps been covered enough). Canadian greats Neil Young, Ian Tyson and Gene MacLellan are covered, with the latter's relatively unknown "Song To A Young Seagull" being a real highlight. As befitting the album title, much of the material here reflects upon family themes. Matthew pays tribute to a grandfather he never met on "Grandpa Joe," while Jill eloquently testifies to the strength of her personal partnership on "One True Love" (both songs are originals). The more universal and bilingual story of "The Partisan" (beautifully sung here) makes for a nice contrast in mood.
 
The musical feel of the record is definitely in the Canadiana/America vein favoured by Matthew rather than the jazz/pop stylings Jill has explored on her recent solo albums. The songs are given extra depth by an all-star band of players who've often worked with the Barbers, while noted engineer Michael Piersante (Alison Krauss and Robert Plant's Raising Sand) also contributes fine work. There is enough variety in the use of vocal harmonies to keep things interesting, too. Let's hope for a sequel before too long.  (Outside)