The Watson Twins
The Watson Twins
Talking To You, Talking To Me
Following on the critical success of Rabbit Fur Coat, their 2006 collaboration with Jenny Lewis, Southern Manners (2006 self-released EP) and Fire Songs, their 2008 Vanguard Records full-length debut, The Watson Twins return with Talking To You, Talking To Me (February 9th/Vanguard) their most groove-heavy and ambitious album to date. The 12 songs on TTY, TTM, produced by Russell Pollard and J. Soda of Everest, display a new sonic direction previously only hinted at in past efforts. Yes, the folk, country and Americana roots of Leigh and Chandra Watson remain, but the duo also explores and reveals their long-held love of R&B, Bossa Nova, indie pop and most prominently, classic soul. "We wanted your body to move with every song," says Leigh.
Where the gorgeous Fire Songs was slower and more meditative, TTY, TTM showcases the twins' admiration of classic soul vocalists, torch singers and chanteuses such as Etta James and Aretha Franklin. "I think elements of that existed on Fire Songs, but they were buried and just hinted at that," says Chandra. "When you're insecure about something, you don't necessarily have the confidence to invoke those styles."
Those insecurities can be laid to rest with TTY, TTM. The soulfulness of "Midnight" sounds like a heartbroken lover crying the blues at a late night bar. "Harpeth River" updates the vibe of classic Portishead. The Hammond B3 and defiant vocals of "Devil in You" could be a lost b-side to Dusty in Memphis, while "Savin' You" and "Snow Canyons" hearken back to the pair's more traditional Americana-based tracks.
In June 2009, having already written the lyrics for the album separately, the twins, Pollard and Soda decamped to a remote cabin in the High Sierras near Yosemite National Park with no phones, television or music. In four days, armed with only guitars, a drum kit, and computer to record the results, the foursome finished the sketches for TTY, TTM. (The album would later be recorded at Fairfax Recordings on the same mixing console as Pink Floyd's The Wall. It features prominent contributions by members of Everest and My Morning Jacket's Bo Koster.)
A retreat in the woods wasn't the only switch the duo made for this album. "In the past, we tended to sing a lot together doing these intricate harmonies," says Chandra. "On this one, the two of us sang back-up for whichever one of us was lead singer. We basically sang back-up for ourselves." Adds Leigh: "I feel we've honed how to work together and I think our singing style on this album strengthened the idea of the two of us being one voice. What people expect from us is very different from what this record is."
On their debut album, Leigh and Chandra Watson established themselves as leaders of a movement that embraced traditional American sounds while still breaking new ground. With Talking to You, Talking to Me, the next chapter of a bourgeoning career is ready to be heard.