Sunday, January 20, 2013


YEAR:  1991
LABEL:  Red House Records
TRACK LISTING:  Chocolate,  La Bamba (An English Translation),  A Change Is Gonna Come,  Roadmaps,  Mama I Wanna Make Rhythm,  The Wind,  Sally's Advice,  Is It True Albert?,  Hummin' To Myself,  A Chill in the Air,  I Am A Can of Tuna,  Big Hair
IMPRESSIONS:  I'm trying to remember when I first heard the Chenille Sisters.  I think it was on Gene Shay's folk music radio programme.  Whether that's right or not, I know which song it was:  "Chocolate".  The Chenille Sisters hymn to the joys of chocolate.  A funny song which also had that three part harmony so influenced by my beloved Boswell Sisters (whom at this point I had only heard in the wacko early 30's musical "THE BIG BROADCAST".  But I loved them and consequently also had to track down the album which such a Boswell-sounding female trio put out.  This I did and the album even contains a cover of a song Connee Boswell recorded ("Hummin' To Myself").  The Chenille Sisters (not actually sisters in the great music tradition) do serious folk songs as well as silly ones and they also cover songs ranging from Sam Cooke's soul hymn "A Change Is Gonna Come" to a comic rewrite of Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba".  Also, like They Might Be Giants, they veer between albums recorded specifically for children and albums meant for the grown-ups (this one).  Such recorded schizophrenia perhaps confuses the listening public (it shouldn't) and that's why the Sisters aren't more well-known.  Allmusic's William Ruhlmann makes the point that the song sequencing on this very album may be sonically confusing to the unsuspecting:  "Funny as that song ('La Bamba') is, its placement on the album, following the equally comic lead-off number, 'Chocolate', illustrates the problem the Chenille Sisters still have shifting gears from silliness to sincerity.  The third track is a cover of Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come', and the listener hasn't yet got through chuckling at 'La Bamba' when it comes on, so it takes a verse of the solemn soul song before the realization sets in that on this song the group wants to be taken seriously."  Now, I can certainly see Ruhlmann's point . . . if you weren't already familiar with the Chenille Sisters' modus operandi.  However, if you bought the album in the first place I'm pretty sure such tonal shifts will not come as a surprise to you.  And myself, who is a notoriously "eclectic" song sequencer who routinely programmes playlists where Metallica follows Sarah Vaughan who followed Spike Milligan, I don't see a problem here.  As the aforementioned Boswell Sisters are obviously a huge influence (as they are on the similar-sounding Puppini Sisters), the Chenilles tend to have a sound which recalls the late 20's/early 30's sides made by the Boswells (who actually WERE sisters).  Songs like "Hummin' To Myself", "Mama I Wanna Make Rhythm" and even, to some extent, "Chocolate" are definitely in this oeuvre.  Despite several weaker songs, this album is just a lot of fun.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Chocolate,  La Bamba (An English Translation),  A Change Is Gonna Come,  Mama I Wanna Make Rhythm,  Hummin' To Myself,  I Am A Can of Tuna,  Big Hair
FACT SHEET:  MAMA, I WANNA MAKE RHYTHM is the Chenille Sisters' fourth album.  The Chenille Sisters are Cheryl Dawdy, Connie Huber and Grace Morand.  "La Bamba" is a cover of the Ritchie Valens hit which itself was a cover of a tradition Mexican folk song; here the Chenille Sisters write new comedy lyrics.  "A Change Is Gonna Come" is a cover of a Sam Cooke song.  "Hummin' To Myself" was writte by Sammy Fain, Siegel Magidson and Monty Siegel and has been previously recorded by Connee Boswell, Kay Starr and Linda Ronstadt among others. 

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