album reviews

The Puppini Sisters
Betcha Bottom Dollar
Verve (2007)

The Puppini Sisters -- Marcella Puppini, Kate Mullins and Stephanie O'Brien -- aren't actually biologically related, but that may be their most striking difference from their obvious heroines, the Andrews Sisters. That iconic influence is obvious as the U.K.-based trio re-creates songs made famous by the Andrews ladies, such as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (From Company B)" and "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen." They don't just borrow from the Andrews songbook, though; they also take on a few other vocal pop numbers from that era: a straightforward cover of the Chordettes' "Mr. Sandman" and a leisurely version of the Ink Spots' "Java Jive."

That retrospective revival is certainly charming, but thankfully the Puppini Sisters don't ride the nostalgia train for the entirety of "Dollar." Instead, they take on a few slightly more recent songs with a kitschy twist: the jumpy beat of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" works particularly well in the Puppinis' swinging style, especially with their enunciation of the song's lovelorn lyrics. The trio's three-part harmonies on Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" accentuate the swaying melodies, giving the once-melodramatic number a completely new feel.

Though the Sisters are skilled at adapting songs to fit their style (most of the newer tunes are arranged by one of the three singers), the tracks that work best are those that capture the mood of an all-female trio, as when their voices blend to emphasize the solidarity in "I Will Survive." By contrast, their take on the Smiths' "Panic" is well-executed but conveys little of the sisterly camaraderie that makes the rest of "Dollar" so delightful.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 24 August 2007, Page WE09
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