Then there’s those Haden triplets, who have had varying levels of singular success en route to their 37th birthdays on October 11:
• Tanya, who sings and plays cello, was a member of several bands but has had her hands full recently raising her two sons, not to mention her husband, Jack Black.
• Petra, who sings and plays violin, might be best remembered for her a cappella rendition of The Who Sell Out, which was blessed by none other than The Who’s Pete Townshend. He was quoted by Entertainment Weekly as saying, ''I felt transported back to the time we made the original album. I heard the music as if for the first time. I listened all the way through in one sitting and was struck by how beautiful a lot of the music was. Petra's approach is so tender and generous. I adore it.'' Petra went on to perform with the Decemberists and has taken on avant-garde projects such as the recent Hearts & Daggers, her second collaboration with Miss Murgatroid (aka Alicia J. Rose).
• Rachel, who grew up learning the piano before switching to bass (surprise), toured this summer (and will continue throughout the fall) with Todd Rundgren, another never-play-it-safe performer who has just released Arena, a new CD of powerhouse rock anthems.
Rachel (right, with Rundgren), also one of the founding members of The Rentals, speaks softly but likes her rock loud and hard. During a recent interview on Rundgren Radio, she said she was influenced by Kim Deal (The Breeders) and Mike Watt (Minutemen) but her “No. 1 influence” was her father, and when she saw her brother Josh (also on the album) play in bands, “I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
This sister act emerges as a true triple threat here, providing divine three-part harmonies on the sweet and sassy “Single Girl, Married Girl,” two spiritual numbers – Bill Monroe’s “Voice From On High” and Hank Williams’ “Tramp on the Street” – and Monroe’s heartbreaking “Seven Year Blues,” where a forlorn lover gets the brush-off (“I had waited seven years today/To see your face once more/And if my life could be as long/I'd wait ten thousand more”).
But the highlight is “The Fields of Athenry,” a lump-in-your-throat, goosebump-raising Irish folk ballad that lasts a majestic 7 minutes, 30 seconds. The length of the song allows everyone to shine, with beautiful lead vocals by Petra, exquisite harmonies by her sisters and the exceptional accompaniment from Douglas (dobro), Hornsby (piano), Duncan (fiddle), and Metheny and Russ Barenberg (guitar).