As Wayne Sutton lays down an indelible guitar line, Patrice Pike sings, "Your hands are strong, their rings of silver. You kiss Mama good-bye and we both know she'd never see. A love supreme with sunset colors. I am not the love they'd bless your soul to keep forever."
Drummer Sean Phillips and bassist Darrell Phillips (no relation) kick in, and the collective sound resonates with passion and intensity. It's "Under The Radar," the first single from Wrestling Over Tiny Matters, the Arista debut album by Dallas, TX-bred, Austin, TX-based Sister Seven. Rolling Stone has said of Patrice, "She's Tina Tuner, Bessie Smith, Janis Joplin and Robert Plant rolled into a tiny but explosive package."
A powerful sum comprised of each of its impressive parts, the hard-driving foursome are emphatically a band. One with a nearly nine-year history; a band made to last.
Wrestling Over Tiny Matters contains 13 strong tracks, and reflects Sister Seven's staying power and ever-growing musical maturity. As Sean says, "This time out, our main focus was songs. When we play live, we're used to people saying great things about Wayne's playing or Patrice's voice or Darrell's bass work. What we want now is for people to leave the shows remembering songs that really moved them." Combining fierce funk, irresistible melodies and the band's signature hard-rocking approach, the new songs are among Sister Seven's most accomplished. And with album producer John Shanks (co-producing with the band) now on board, Sister Seven's range of stylistic expression and lyrical depth is more extensive.
Shanks, who plays guitar with Melissa Etheridge and also produced her most recent album, completely understood the band's aesthetic. "He was particularly good at guitar counter-melodies," Sean says. "And he always had new ideas. We'd lay down thirty tracks, and he'd still think of something fresh to add." Case in point, the soaring track "Polishing The Looking Glass." Patrice explains: "Generally, Wayne is a Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones-influenced player, but here we incorporated a Lennon-McCartney feel, too. Working and writing with John was great. Even when we first met, the vibes were there."
Multi-textural and sonically gorgeous, the tracks that make up Wrestling Over Tiny Matters range from the rock attack of "Leave This Love Behind" to the yearning of "The Only Thing That's Real." Other album highlights include "Nobody Knows" and "Fallen Angel." The track "Elijah" is simply monumental, and unlike anything the band has ever done. "With that song, I threw out all the rules of songwriting," says Patrice. "I've found that it's not so important that listeners know exactly what I'm talking about-they're free to find meaning for themselves." "Elijah" also features the album's title lyric. "Wayne suggested that 'wrestling over tiny matters' is a pertinent description of what the whole album's about," Patrice says. "Lots of different subjects, all from the band's personal experience."
The quartet formed in the summer of '91 and soon began playing weekly gigs at clubs on Sixth Street in Austin, TX, well known as the center of the yearly South-by-Southwest music conference. "At first we were almost a self-described funk band, playing good-time music in bars," Sean says. "As we've moved toward concentrating on songwriting, we've really tried to keep elements of that funk while evolving our overall sound." Each player an accomplished musician, the band began with the name Little Sister (Patrice's childhood nickname); from the start, their emphasis was always on music, not labels. "There were six bands in the United States and one in the UK [with the word 'Sister' in the title]," Patrice notes. "We were literally Sister Seven. Plus we liked the name because seven is a lucky number."
It was hard work and ace musicianship, however, that gained the band a regional and then a national fan base. They followed their debut indie release, Freedom Child, with the live Free Love and Nickel Beer. Sister Seven toured relentlessly, on a national and international level, their three-hour-plus live sets becoming the stuff of local Texas legend. "For at least eight years," Sean says, "we played four or five gigs a week." Before signing with a major label, the band generated a fan club list of over 20,000 and created its own website.
Collectively, their musical tastes range from Led Zeppelin to The Beatles to John Coltrane, and the music of their native Texas ("We love Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson." Sean says, "Maybe we don't sound like them, but we love the spirit."). Luckily, Sister Seven has eluded categorization, while remaining unabashedly a rock band. "Rock for a while got labeled as straight-ahead, heavy and not very soulful. But that's a real contradiction to the way the music started," Patrice says. "It always had its roots in rhythm & blues and that's one of my passions-soul music."
Sister Seven's soulful and assured 1996 Arista Austin debut This The Trip generated the hit "Know What You Mean," raising the band's profile even higher. As their journey has unfolded, highlights have included Patrice's a cappella rendition of the national anthem for the JFK Memorial's 20th Anniversary in Dallas; sharing the stage with the Allman Brothers and Dave Matthews Band on the H.O.R.D.E. tour; guest-starring at Lilith Fair; and opening for the legendary John Fogerty (who told Rolling Stone, "Sister Seven: great songs, great band, great singer; it's all there."). With each gig played and every mile traveled, the band got stronger.
Wrestling Over Tiny Matters builds on Sister Seven's legacy. Its songs, as eclectic as the band itself, range from the hard-rocking wit of "My Three Wishes" to the prescient "Loaded," a song written two years ago about disaffected youth and gun laws. With songs of innocence and experience, hard times and hope, Wrestling Over Tiny Matters is the finest testament yet of a band who'll be with us for a long time to come. As Patrice sings "Leave This Love Behind," she captures the power of the Sister Seven spirit: "The sun will rise on this paradise/And you know the greatest of all is love/We're born here alone to find/The world's in a wicked time/But still the greatest of all is love."
|No Tour Dates Available