The Hayes sisters – Cathryn, Angela and Jennifer – had an acoustic folk trio in their teenage years and they played on their local folk club circuit around Manchester. They eventually gave up on it but now, twenty years later, they’ve decided to put the band back together. As well as all playing acoustic guitar, with Jen adding some banjo, their main thing was harmonised vocals – and they can still do that. In fact the best tracks on the album are those that feature their vocals and little or nothing else – the a cappella “Another Man’s Shoes” is one of the better things on the album. However there’s no disguising that this is a band that started paying their dues two decades ago and haven’t, it would appear, developed their music in the intervening years.
The music is a somewhat dated sounding blend of folk – some of it Irish influenced – and almost straight pop tunes – with a few oddities like the rock and roll revival sounds of “Saints and Sinners” which brought to mind the Welsh Elvis – yes there’s a touch of the wrong Shaky about this song. The straighter folk offerings have a moribund feeling of an unhappy
blending of The Spinners and The Nolans. Several of the songs do have some interesting features – the straight love songs suffer somewhat from “moon-spoon-June” simplicity but elsewhere there are takes on domestic abuse (“The woman who walked”) and the torture of prisoners (“Work”). Heavy topics, but handled exactly the same as any other song – such as the tale of a French girl in love with a wehrmacht soldier in occupied France that is “Dieter & Marie-Pierre”. There’s a lack of emotional commitment in the singing – it can be pretty but I never believed any of it was truly felt. The one exception to this is “Sweet Dreams” which evokes a dreamy semi-medieval psychfolk feel that blends the sisters’ voices and Fiona Lander’s recorder to some good effect on a song of hope for the world. At the moment though the Hayes Sisters sound like a folk club opening act – and maybe a few gigs will sharpen up the talent that is clearly here.
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Two decades on three sisters revive their teenage folk band – but it needs some work to bring it up to date.