6/10• Make Love To Me
• Can You Get To That?
• Que Sera, Sera
(Whatever Will Be, Will Be)
• A Poor Man’s Roses
(Or A Rich Man’s Gold)
• Sweet Dreams “If it sounds beautiful, that’s because it felt beautiful,” says Becky Stark of recording this six-song set of covers, as though it would be possible for The Living Sisters to sound anything other than totally sublime. Admittedly new recruit Alex Lilly comes to this release as a bit of a dark horse, but a quick Google of her band Obi Best points to a voice that’s more than up to the task of blending in with Stark and the other founding Sisters, Inara George and Eleni Mandell (not coincidentally, Lilly can be heard on a number of tracks by George’s other band, The Bird & The Bee). The question with Run For Cover, then, is not whether it sounds beautiful but whether sounding beautiful is enough. The answer: one part not quite to two parts emphatically yes.
There are two songs here that don’t quite work. The first, a cover of a cover of ‘Que Sera, Sera’, dodges expectations in bypassing the sprightly Doris Day classic in favour of the 1973 version by Sly & The Family Stone. Mandell’s intention is noble (why reinvent the wheel when The Shirelles already own the definitive girl-group version?) but the execution lacks the groove, and more importantly the gravitas, of the Sisters’ source material. The other is a take on Dolly Parton’s enduring ‘Jolene’ that loses more than just its instrumentation in its translation to an all a cappella affair. Though undeniably pretty, it’s an inconsistent effort; the four-way harmony sections serve the song much better than the individual solos, which, while fine in their own right, sound a touch anaemic in comparison.
Not all the risks that The Living Sisters take on this EP fall flat. Not that you can call anything these ladies produce as wholly unexpected – the variety in Mandell’s back catalogue alone is impressive – but their take on Funkadelic’s ‘Can You Get To That?’ (a childhood favourite of Stark’s) is an ambitious stab at shaking up The Living Sisters formula. Their falsetto/bass call-and-response isn’t nearly as effective as on the original and the backing is certainly tamer, but it’s an otherwise faithful and enjoyable effort that proves that there is more to this band than country-pop nuggets.
Not that there is anything wrong with country-pop nuggets done The Living Sisters way; ‘A Poor Man’s Roses’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’, a pair of songs from the Patsy Cline songbook, testify to that. Where the latter is played right down the line as a classic country weepie, ‘A Poor Man’s Roses’ is given a more intriguing reworking that’s perfectly suited to the nuances of the Sisters’ individual voices. Covering the last of the bases that made their 2010 debut Love To Live such a pleasure, the Sisters’ cheeky side – last seen on ‘Hold Back’ and ‘Double Knots’ – shines through on ‘Make Love To Me’, a song made famous in 1954 by hitmaker Jo Stafford (the first woman in history to score a #1 single in the UK – top pop fact). Don’t expect any steamy double entendres here though; “I like the way you wear your pants” is about as racy as it gets.
Covers records are seldom anything to get too excited about, and Run For Cover doesn’t do enough to except itself from that general rule. What it does do is to remind that Stark, George, Mandell and Lilly are glorious singers – a joy to hear even on the less successful cuts – and to keep The Living Sisters name alive until such time as they decide to make another full-length. Whether that turns out to be, as Stark has teased, “a Pointer Sisters-style dance-soul record” or something else together, we’ll be tuning in for more.