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CD Review: The Watson Twins

Talking to You, Talking to Me (Vanguard)

On their debut EP, Southern Manners, Leigh and Chandra Watson filtered their Kentucky roots and early country exposure through an affinity for Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant and the Cowboy Junkies. Almost simultaneously, the Watsons backed Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis on her debut solo album, the Laura-Nyro-meets-Tammy-Wynette country soul of Rabbit Fur Coat. But the twins' equal billing on the album further obscured their own identity. The contemplative Fire Songs helped to establish the Watson Twins' atmospheric folk-pop, lessening the overt country aspects and broadening their pop base.

Soulful pop is the order of the day on the Watsons' sophomore album, Talking to You, Talking to Me. "Harpeth River" has a languid Dusty Springfield Memphis soul feel with a ripping Curtis Mayfield undercurrent, while "Forever Me" wouldn't be out of place in Sade's repertoire. "Midnight" displays Aretha Franklin's quiet power over music that references James Brown and 10,000 Maniacs with similar enthusiasm. "Savin' You" has the mellow aggression of Annie Lennox produced by Brian Eno, "Tell Me Why" slinks and coos like Shelby Lynne channeling '60s cocktail music, and "Devil in You" is Americana gospel-pop with a dour swing. There are moments when the Watsons warble and wail with the same determination as their British soul revivalist counterparts but with an authenticity and conviction that mere copyists lack. With Talking to You, Talking to Me, the Watson Twins have finally shown the scope of their potential and a direction for their bright future. — Baker

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