Forget confining The Skipperdees to some arbitrary genre. However you file it, the new release from twins Emily and Catherine Backus is in the upper echelon of 2013 releases (unfortunately, the record came out too late to make the deadline for Flagpole's Top 10, which we published last week). Often quirky and at other points painfully serious, these dozen songs—produced by folk guru Jim White—showcase some of the best songwriting you’re apt to find in Athens, or anywhere else.
Many of the songs feature the sort of jangle you’d expect from a duo that selects an acoustic guitar and a banjo as its primary axes. But songs like “The Atomic City” have a Texas-flavored tightness rarely heard in these parts. The song's lyrics focus on how FDR’s energy policies impacted the state of Tennessee (“Those bombs pay your bills/ Didn’t you know?”); John Keane’s wobbly guitar licks are equally captivating. And dry wit eventually gives way to honest reflection. “Kyrie” confronts some of the headier issues surrounding growing up. “Atlas,” an aural compliment to “Kyrie,” delves into a soured relationship (“I don’t want pity or prayers for my sinful heart”).
These young ladies are offering up some serious wisdom. But while the poetry found here is certainly impressive, credit is also due to the many guests who make Some Bright Mourning a sonically vast record. In addition to the full Packway Handle Band lineup backing up the Backuses on the bluegrass-y “Ashes, Ashes,” the Drive-By Truckers' John Neff lends pedal steel on a few key tracks, providing electric icing for this near-perfect cake. 5 out of 5.