comic artist

comic artist

"I Got Lucky", The Sweetback Sisters

15h ago
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"I Got Lucky", performed by The Sweetback Sisters" (www.thesweetbacksisters.com) at the Institute of Musical Traditions (www.imtfolk.org), Rockville, Maryland, USA on October 7, 2013. Emily Miller and Zara Bode may not be blood relations, but their precise, family-style harmonies recall the best of country music and rockabilly. Emily Miller was born in Kansas and raised in Hong Kong, where her family band performed traditional American music on television shows and in shopping malls. "We were a wholesome American family that played banjos and fiddles. We got gigs because we were a real oddity over there." Miller started fiddling at three and picked up guitar in her 20s, when her mother (a founding member of the all-woman old-time band The Any Old Time String Band) told her that a singer needs to be able to play the guitar. She also tried to broaden her musical taste beyond country music at an early age. "In my teens, I went to a singing summer camp that specialized in traditional music from around the world. It allowed me to tour and meet great musicians from all over the country and the world, including Zara and Stefan." Zara Bode was born in San Francisco, and was immersed in the arts from an early age. Her father a comic artist and mother a dancer, both played music on the side and encouraged Bode to take lessons from a young age. "I played piano and clarinet as a kid, but the deeper I got into early swing and Jazz, the more I fantasized about singing in a big band a la Ella Fitzgerald." She attended a performing arts high school in Hadley, Massachusetts, where she met future Sweetback guitarist Ross Bellenoit. There her easygoing stage presence and powerhouse vocals had her singing with various groups including the Downbeat Award-winning a cappella group 5 Alone, and starring in most of the school's theatrical productions. With a unique versatility in her range of voices, a deep musicality and keen sense for harmonies, Zara continued to study various types of song, but admits it was rarely country. "Before I met Emily, I didn't have much experience with country music apart from Western swing. I was however a big fan of the offbeat theatrics of Roger Miller, who penned one of the Sweetback Sisters first hits "My Uncle Used to Love me But she Died". My Great Grandpa Joe used to blast his songs across the lake every chance he got." In Miller, Bode discovered a kindred spirit, one who shared her love of tight-knit harmonies heard on the 45s of yesteryear. "The vocal chemistry between us was immediately apparent," Miller recalls. "It was a natural fit, and before you knew it we had some shows lined up. We needed some hot instrumentalists, so we called up Jesse, Ross and Stefan and The Sweetback Sisters were born." Bode adds, "Our first gig was in this little tip jar joint in Brooklyn. It was hot, and the place was packed to the brim with friends, family, and country music lovers. There was a tangible energy in the air. It really felt like this was the beginning of something special." Sound: Art Isaacs, Dave Eisner, Jesse Stern, Jim Ralph Camera: Laura Christoplos, Emily Whiting, Tim Twomey, Dick Tufts, Ralph Lillie Editing: Ralph Lillie © 2013, Institute of Musical Traditions