New Review: Ancient and modern design: The Cornshed Sisters Tell Tales

Cornshed Sisters, Union Chapel by John Kell via flickr.jpg

The Cornshed Sisters entered my consciousness about a month ago now when I heard Mark Riley play debut single ‘Dance at my wedding’ on his early evening show on 6 music. It was a nice folky pop song, I thought, but didn’t really follow up on the band until a week or so later upon trawling The Guardian music section and, specifically, Paul Lester’s New Band Of The Day section.

Poor Paul Lester, he set it upon himself to write about a new band every day for The Guardian, and, five years later, revealed he hasn’t had a holiday since. Hindesight is also not an option either apparently…

The Cornshed Sisters were new band of the day number 1,218, and I think it was the aforementioned single, combined with the standfirst, which read:

Pat Benatar said love is a battlefield. The Cornshed Sisters say it’s more like the carpet bombing of Germany in the second world war.

And also probably the picture of the band, in overalls with their hair tied up in scarves a’la World War II WAAF’s that intrigued me.

Was there a forties revival going on that I hadn’t heard about?

Helen G, who has just reviewed the bands debut album Tell Tales for us has been similarly intrigued by the band:

Research for this review led me down some interesting paths. On the way, I’ve been reminded of the old criticism of London music fans, that we’re all self-regarding hipsters whose view of the rest of Britain stops at the Watford Gap motorway service station. While there may perhaps be a grain of truth in that for some people, the other side of the coin is that a lot of good things which may be happening elsewhere pass us by – and often we’re the losers in that one-way exchange.

Sunderland in Tyne and Wear is a pertinent example. For those Londoners who have heard of this place, possibly its most famous musical emigrants are Dave Stewart (ex-Eurythmics), Bryan Ferry (ex-Roxy Music) and Lauren Laverne (ex-Kenickie member turned TV and radio presenter), to name but three. Yet, there exists a vibrant musical community which, despite (or maybe because of) its compact nature, is more than thriving. Field Music, Frankie & The Heartstrings, The Futureheads, The Lake Poets: there’s a diverse range of musicians and musical styles – to which may also be added The Cornshed Sisters.

In fact, the real strength – and the focus of their debut CD, Tell Tales, lies in the gorgeous four-part vocal harmony singing, which benefits immensely from a combination of minimal instrumentation and sympathetic arrangements

An interesting insight into the share-and-share-alike nature of the working arrangements behind the band and the recording and touring processes was given by Marie (coincidentally another ex-Kenickie member) of The Cornshed Sisters, who said last year in an interview with Journal Live

I think there’s always been a really interesting vibrant dedicated music scene in Sunderland.

It’s quite self-contained and in loads of ways that’s useful because it means people have a chance to get good before anyone else sees them.

Below is a clip of the band performing album track ‘Pies for the fair’ live in Stockton earlier this month.

Click here to read the rest of Helen’s review, to comment, and to listen to a sampler from the album.

Image of The Cornshed Sisters performing at London Union Chapel on April 4 2012 by John Kell, shared via a flickr creative commons licence