Comparing the Lovell Sisters to the Dixie Chicks is easy. Both groups consist of three women playing folk/country music, but that’s where the comparison ends. All three of the sisters have exceptional musical talent and impressive stage presence that far surpasses the Chicks-plus, they aren’t bad looking. But when they took the stage Saturday night as part of the Lobero’s Sings Like Hell series, the audience was suspicious. Here were three young women claiming to be straight out of Georgia with bluegrass roots, but dressed in jeans, flip-flops, and looking like they’d fit right in with the Santa Barbara crowd. After only a brief, “How ya’ll doing?” they launched into “Just a Promise,” a driving track from their debut album, When Forever Rolls Around. All skepticism was lost as the audience was sucked into a fast-paced world of dizzying mandolin solos and pitch-perfect three-part harmonies. Jessica Lovell-the group’s fiddler and the oldest of the sisters at age 21-sings lead vocals for most of the songs. And when she sang, the audience easily felt the power and emotion in her voice. This was especially clear in an upbeat cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” during which Jessica had all of the intensity (and maybe even a little more) that Cash had when he sang the original.
As the night progressed, the crowd’s astonishment grew to near disbelief. In between songs, these masterful musicians seemed to transform back into what they really are-teenage sisters. Harmlessly poking fun at each other and exchanging wide smiles, you’d think they were playing in a high school talent show until they started a new song. There was something incredibly refreshing about the warmth and uncommon sincerity the Lovells possessed onstage. When youngest sister Rebecca, 16, introduced a song as “a real pretty one,” the crowd almost let out a studio audience-style sigh, as if she were a little girl at a piano recital.
The last integral piece of the Lovell Sisters puzzle is middle sister Megan, 18. The Jerry Douglas-influenced dobro player makes even a challenging solo appear effortless. Together, the Lovells proved that they are an unstoppable force in contemporary acoustic music. Abandon any doubt and see what these sisters have to offer.