The Haden Triplets’ — yes, that’s jazz legend Charlie Haden’s daughters — take on the old-time Americana songbook on their eponymous new CD, mining every ounce of pretty/purty out of songs whose core ore is just sad, sad, sad. God might seem far, but one’s love tends to be even farther in chestnuts like “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?” and “Tiny Broken Heart.”
One might wonder how Rachel, Tanya, and Petra Haden ended up singing the songs of the Carter Family and the Louvin Brothers, but they have numerous reasons to, not the least being that biology makes for a fine three-part harmony. “We grew up listening to country music,” Petra explained during a recent phone interview. “When we were kids, we’d sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and ‘Single Girl, Married Girl.’”
Santa Barbara will get a chance to hear the Triplets sing these songs on Saturday evening, when UCSB Arts & Lectures presents a night-long Americana Music Jam on at SOhO. Alas, the man instrumental to getting the record made, Ry Cooder (the family seems to traffic in legends of all sorts), won’t be at the gig. The Triplets met Ry through his son, Joachim, who drummed for them at a KPFK benefit and convinced his father to sit in. Ry was so impressed that, according to Petra, “he called saying he wanted to produce an album for us. We were jumping up and down with excitement. We had recorded some songs years ago, but then everyone got busy.”
That’s easy to believe; the trio’s résumés are jam-packed. Tanya has worked as a cellist and animator. Petra and Rachel both played in pop-punk bands, and Petra, who considers herself a bit of “a Renaissance girl,” has recorded with a range of artists, including The Decemberists, Foo Fighters, Bill Frisell, and Paul Motian. She’s also recorded her own solo, multi-dubbed albums, including a complete a cappella recreation of The Who Sell Out.
For The Haden Triplets, the sisters set up shop in Tanya’s house right after she and her husband, Jack Black, moved in. Its empty rooms and high ceiling made it a great impromptu studio, Petra asserts. While the album is primarily oldies, the sisters do offer up one contemporary piece — Nick Lowe’s still fitting lament “Raining Raining,” a suggestion from Cooder. “You’re always supposed to have one song that’s a little different,” Petra says. “I’m just glad it wasn’t a heavy metal song in three-part harmony: ‘I am Iron Man,’” she goofily sings.
The Santa Barbara show will feature most of the album and maybe an Everly Brothers tune the trio has taken to performing live. And their backing band’s nothing to scoff at either: John Konesky (known for his work with Tenacious D) is on guitar, J.P. Maramba plays bass, and Santa Barbaran Austin Beede mans the drums. “That’s cool,” Petra says. “We’ll hang out with him, and he’ll show us around.”
Catch the heavenly harmonizing of the Haden Triplets as part of the Americana Music Jam at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m. Run Boy Run plays at 5 p.m., and Jackie Greene plays at 9 p.m. Visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu for tickets and info.