Kindred Lines SMM 1010
Spruce and Maple Music
The T Sisters, born and raised in California and now based in the creative hub of Oakland, embody harmony. It’s in their blood, bones, and history. Erika, Rachel and Chloe have been singing and writing music together since childhood, and the lifetime of practice shows.
The three sisters’ inventive songwriting is supported by their own acoustic instrumentation as well as upright bass (Steve Height), mandolin/guitar (Andrew Allen Fahlander), and drums. Their sound represents a continuum of music, from traditional to pop influences, moments of breathtaking a cappella to swells of energetic indie Americana.
In the last two years, they’ve been honored to support such acts as Amos Lee, Todd Rundgren, The Waybacks, Laurie Lewis, ALO, Elephant Revival, The California Honeydrops, and more. Notable performances include Merlefest, Kate Wolf Music Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (support role), Sisters Folk Festival, Strawberry Music Festival, Americana Music Association Festival, Music City Roots, and Garrison Keillor’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’.
For more information regarding The T Sister's music, please visit www.tsisters.com.
"My friend came over the other day with three darling, twentysomething, adorable girls; they're called the T Sisters, and they sang all afternoon a cappella. It was so great! I would have given anything to throw a harmony on, but still I loved it."
~ Linda Ronstadt
When Oakland’s T Sisters lift their voices in song, you’re immediately transfixed by the harmonies, their three voices weaving in and out of sync to echo the lively performances of the Andrews Sisters, Carter Family and Dixie Chicks. Folk, swing, boogie-woogie and Americana all find a place in their joyous sibling revelry.
~ j. poet
San Jose Mercury News ~ Andrew Gilbert
As a snappy stage moniker the T Sisters makes perfect sense for Erika, Rachel and Chloe Tietjen, who perform together as an irresistibly joyful sibling combo steeped in American roots music. But given their far-ranging creative proclivities, they could be more accurately described as the A to Z Sisters.
The 20-something siblings -- Erika is the eldest, and Rachel and Chloe are twins -- celebrate the release of their winning debut album, "Kindred Lines," Friday at The New Parish in Oakland (opening for Rising Appalachia) and Tuesday at Don Quixote's International Music Hall (singer-songwriter Dave Holodiloff opens the show).
Produced by Berkeley bluegrass heroine Laurie Lewis and released on her Spruce and Maple Music label, the album focuses on the East Bay-raised sisters' talents as singers and songwriters, leaving most instrumental duties to ace session musicians like mandolin master Mike Marshall and bassist Todd Phillips.
For the Felton show, they're performing as an acoustic quintet with a bassist and fiddler while accompanying themselves on guitar, banjo, washboard and sundry percussion instruments. Their arrangements liberally borrow from various traditions, with bluegrass and sassy 1940s pop arm wrestling for dominance. The album features only one cover, a beautifully calibrated rendition of Paul Simon's lament "American Tune," but in shows lately, they've added several others to the mix, including the Grateful Dead's "Attics of My Life" and Lennon and McCartney's "Because."
In a recent phone conversation, the sisters took turns describing their various creative pursuits and collaborations and how they decide who gets featured on any given number.
"There's no real formula for it," Chloe says. "We all write our own material, and whether it's a cappella or for the band, the song tends to feature who wrote it. There's a continuous process of trying new things, keeping some and discarding others."
As they are a family band, you might expect the T Sisters to be somewhat insular (they live together in a converted warehouse in Oakland's artsy Jingletown neighborhood). But rather than turning inward, they've thrived by throwing themselves into dozens of varying situations, like opening for the celebrated sister duo Rising Appalachia at Oakland's New Parish on Friday.
On Oct. 12 Matt Butler's Everyone Orchestra features them at Mill Valley's Sweetwater Music Hall on an expansive program including guitarist Steve Kimock, Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz and RatDog drummer Jay Lane. And on Oct. 23, they perform at Slim's as part of the ongoing Britgrass Invasion series, covering a Pink Floyd song on a multiact program with Belle Monroe, American Nomad and Rusty Springfield.
They're also the ringmasters of their own Chthonic Theater Variety Shows, which they've presented at their Jingletown digs since 2009. Featuring an ever-expanding cast of collaborators, the productions are usually organized around a loose theme, like Oct. 17's "Twilight Zone" show at the Chthonic Theater, 2935 Chapman St., Oakland ($10-$15 at the door), which seems fitting, as chthonic is an ancient Greek word "pertaining to the underworld, and often associated with the feminine," Chloe says.
"Some (Chthonic Theater Variety Show performers) are new artists, and others are experienced professionals," Rachel says. "It might involve clowns, dancers, magicians and comedians, though the shows tend to be heavy on the music side. It's a constantly developing thing."
"And it's a great place to try out new T Sisters songs," Erika adds.
With their theatrical leanings, it's not surprising that Walnut Creek's Devil Mountain Chorus recruited the T Sisters as featured guests for their Oct. 26 show "Music In the Air: An A Cappella Comedy" at the Shadelands Art Center.
Like other great sister acts from the Boswells and the Andrewses to the Pointers and the Roches, the Tietjens started singing together as children, and they've honed their glorious harmonies ever since. With a singer-songwriter father and dance-teacher mother, they were surrounded by creative activities at home, which quickly led to summer productions with the Young People's Theater Group in Berkeley.
After graduating from Piedmont High, they went to different colleges, reuniting to collaborate on Rachel's senior thesis project at Maryland Institute and College of Art. She presented her original musical based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Little Mermaid" at Shotwell Studios in San Francisco.
Around the same time, they performed at an open mic night at Berkeley's Starry Plough, making an impression deep enough that the MC invited them back as featured artists. Asked what name they should be billed under, the siblings hit upon the T Sisters.
With a name in place and the growing realization that their collaboration had taken on a life of its own, the sisters were introduced to Laurie Lewis by singer-songwriter Michael McNevin, and Lewis quickly recruited them to sing backup vocals at her Freight & Salvage album release concert for 2010's "Blossoms." They've joined her many times since then.
"They write great songs, they sing really well together, and, of course, they're all gorgeous," Lewis says. "They write some really unique music, and it's been so exciting to watch them come into their own."
Gideon Thomas, PopMatters
The Tietjan Sisters – Erika, Rachel, Chloe – are a singing trio from the Oakland area. Kindred Lines sees them blend Americana, country, blues, jazz and a whole lot more. The record is produced by Laurie Lewis, and displays harmony and closeness, both in terms of sound as well as in the familial sense. The tracks range from the ‘30s/‘40s feel of “Seduction of Spring” to the more bluegrass-driven “Train Wreck” to the blues, swing and big band of “But Not for You”.
The Sisters easily carry off a range of styles successfully and convincingly –- all focused around their dynamic harmonies, and relate their experiences with integrity (“The Wind”, “Molasses”). Kindred Lines has a lot of feeling, a lot of seriousness in approach, writing and construction, but also exhibits fun and solid music and singing. Overall, a great package of fine instrumentation, interesting voices and very good songs.
Jeffrey Sisk, Pittsburgh In Tune
“Kindred Lines,” the debut album from T Sisters — remarkably talented siblings Erika, Rachel and Chloe Tietjen — is a revelation and an absolute must for anyone who loves old-time country and folk music. Hailing from the Bay Area, T Sisters deliver a pitch-perfect gathering of 12 tunes filled with three-part harmonies that is an absolute joy from beginning to end.
A capella gem “You Don’t Know” launches the album, and is followed by “Seduction of Spring,” a tune that sounds like it could have been recorded during World War II. Additional standouts include “Woo Woo,” “Train Wreck,” “The Wind,” “Molasses,” “But Not for You” and “Broken Wings.” The ladies also score with the lone cover on “Kindred Lines,” a delightful reading of Paul Simon’s “American Tune.” I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
Chris Strachwitz, Down Home Music
"I heard the T Sisters at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley the other night when I went to hear Laurie Lewis, Tom Rozum, and Nina Gerber play songs from their new album (See Above). During the first set these three sisters -- Erika, Rachel, & Chloe Tietjen -- joined Laurie on vocals only on one song. To open the second set, Laurie gave them a solo number, which was very enjoyable. The next morning I listened to their new CD actually all the way through, a rare thing for me! I was really delighted with their sound, which reminded me of the Andrew Sisters back in the 1940s. The interplay of their voices is just pure delight. Although on the record they have a lot of people playing behind them, the arrangements are really tasteful and never dominate the sound -- it's the voices up front that grab you."
John Conquest, 3rd Coast Music Review
Erika, Rachel & Chloe Tietjen (looks Dutch or Flemish to me, but, according to the Internets, it’s a German name) sang harmony vocals on Laurie Lewis’ One Evening in May (reviewed 4/14), and they reunited for the sisters’ first full-length album, produced by Lewis and released on her label. One’s first reaction, as with the fiddling Quebe Sisters, is astonishment at the technical expertise. Born and raised in Oakland, CA, the Tietjens have been singing together all their lives, “making up songs and writing plays together in the attic of our grandparents’ house,” and along the line decided to make something of it–an unusual credit goes to a voice coach, Colleen Donovan, “who helped us hone our sister singing.” The backing musicians, with whom I’m not familiar but if they’re good enough for Laurie Lewis, that’s good enough for me, do fine work, but the standout tracks are the a cappellaThe Wind, Bones (and the only cover, Paul Simon’s American Tune, plus You Don’t Know which features subtle percussion by Linda Lowery (sic, Ed note: Linda Tillery). Contributing almost evenly to the 11 original songs, the sisters are also off to a good start as coming-of-age songwriters, but it all comes back to the interplay of their voices. Comparisons with legends are usually suspect and shallow, but, while I’m not hearing LaVerne’s contralto, I can see why The T Sisters remind Arhoolie Records’ Chris Strachwitz of The Andrews Sisters. With elements of folk, country, gospel and jazz, I guess they’ll be labeled “Americana.” I’ll just call it “What’s Not To Like?”
You Don't Know * Seduction of Spring * Woo Woo * Not Be The Same * Train Wreck * It Was Me * The Wind * Molasses * But Not For You * Bones * Broken Wings * American Tune