sat 31/10/2020

Album: Tanya Donelly and The Parkington Sisters | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Tanya Donelly and The Parkington Sisters

Album: Tanya Donelly and The Parkington Sisters

Classic songs reborn with strings and harmonies

Donelly and friends create a beautiful noise

It’s exciting to come to an album with no preconceptions and no context and find you fall immediately in love with it. Tanya Donelly is probably less well-known in Britain than she deserves to be: she last toured here in 2014 with Throwing Muses, one of two bands she co-founded (the other was The Breeders) before founding and fronting Belly, finally going solo in the mid-'90s.

It’s exciting to come to an album with no preconceptions and no context and find you fall immediately in love with it. Tanya Donelly is probably less well-known in Britain than she deserves to be: she last toured here in 2014 with Throwing Muses, one of two bands she co-founded (the other was The Breeders) before founding and fronting Belly, finally going solo in the mid-'90s.

Stateside she’s more of a name, particularly in the Boston area, and essentially known as a singer-songwriter. She’s no stranger to covers and during lockdown has been laying down a series of modern classics at #bandcamp as a benefit for local clubs and musicians. They are a delight. Now comes Tanya Donelly and The Parkington Sisters, a covers project than actually began18 months or so ago following a chance meeting at a local gig. It’s a keeper, a collection of what Donelly’s called “life-long heavy rotation songs” by songwriters “who impacted on the songwriter I wanted to be”.

The Parkingtons are a strings and harmony group, and very fine indeed. There’s not much info online but they are, apparently, the “daughters of a prog rock musician and a classically trained guitarist and songwriter” who were “raised playing music on picturesque Cape Cod”. Donelly has said they can all “chart on the spot” and “balance technical skill with spontaneity”, bringing to the album “a sound and a confident vision”. Amen to that. They make a beautiful noise.

I’ve certainly had it on rotate, and find there’s not a dud among the nine songs. My favourite, and the standout, is Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love”. Recorded originally on Various Positions (1984) when Cohen was (outrageously) regarded as a joke, the song was the opener on his 2008 comeback tour gigs, and the version here – fiddles to the fore, delicate piano – would not have disgraced those unforgettable shows. “Different Drum”, written in 1964 by Mike Nesmith, is best known in the Linda Ronstadt and The Stone Poneys version and that’s clearly the inspiration for this cut, introduced by Sarah and Ariel’s precise pizzicato violins and driven by Lydia P’s cello. Donelly’s vocal is less bluesy and more laid-back than Ronstadt’s.

“Days” is lovely, piano figurations and a syncopated guitar motif giving way to exquisite strings and finally a full-throated ensemble and multi-layered vocals. Though the credits are correct, it’s listed as a Kirsty MacColl cover which would suggest to the unwise that she wrote it – but of course it’s a Ray Davies number, and featured on The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society 20 years before MacColl picked it up. From Band on the Run, arguably Paul McCartney and Wings’ strongest album, comes “Let Me Roll It”, shorn of its famous echo and with the song’s distinctive guitar riff taken by the violins.

There are also some less obvious choices. “Automatic”, written by Jane Wiedlin and a hit for The Go-Go’s, opens the album, introduced by a sound that could have come from Jimi Hendrix, while “Ocean Rain”, the title track from Echo and the Bunnymen’s 1984 album, is a reminder that there was perhaps more to them than met the ear. The Parkingtons' sound world is glorious.

Tanya Donelly and The Parkington Sisters is a timely outing to lighten the gloom, but I’ve a feeling that, like Trio, which brought together Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, it’s going to prove timeless. I hope there’s a sequel.

A timely outing to lighten the gloom, but I’ve a feeling that it’s going to prove timeless

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Comments

Actually Donelly toured the UK in 2016 with Belly when they reunited, and again with Belly in 2018 following the release of Dove, the band’s first record in over twenty years.

It’s a great LP. Just one point of info, she toured the U.K. with Belly in 2016 and 2018.

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters