Monday, April 30, 2007

Glory Be To Technology!

Hey Sweetbackers,

Just thought I'd let you know of our little technological advances here at the weblog. I've added a few youtube videos to our Prairie post, check 'em out and forward to your friends! Also, if you happened to miss our show on Prairie Home Companion last week, or just can't get enough of that live Sweetback action you can listen to the whole darn thing front to back: RIGHT HERE!

Here's to the future!

An x & o from the gals that know,

The Sweetback Sisters

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Prairie Home Sweet Home

Live on APHC

Thanks so much to everyone who tuned in to hear us on A Prairie Home Companion last Saturday. We loved every minute of our weekend in St.Paul, especially the minutes that involved soaking in the elegance of the St. Paul Hotel and singing in the Fitzgerald Theater!

Never has our band been as well taken care of as we were this weekend. We flew in from our separate corners of the world on Friday morning and were whisked from the airport to the hotel in vans with squishy seats and pleasant drivers. Then we had a couple of hours to bounce on the comfy king-sized beds, try out the bath products and take an afternoon constitutional around the neighborhood before we were whisked away in another set of squishy vans to the Fitzgerald.

The Fitz

I've been listening to the show since I was a child (I grew up thinking that Powdermilk Biscuits really did come in a big, blue box), and I don't think I ever quite realized the magnitude of it. We learned that day that APHC has a listenership (is that a word?) of 4.5 million. Whoa! Not exactly an intimate, from-my-living-room- to-yours kind of deal. And beyond that, the Fitzgerald is an imposing, 1100-seat auditorium with plush red seats and dressing rooms and a box office. You can buy tickets on TicketMaster-- doesn't that spell big time?

So we showed up at this, the biggest venue we'd ever been allowed into, and were immediately welcomed by members of APHC's exceedingly friendly and helpful staff. Sam Hudson, the sound wizard, came out from behind his soundboard (bigger than many kitchens in Manhattan) and made it clear that he could and would make us sound good so long as we showed up at our soundcheck and didn't insult the Minnesota Gophers. Thanks, Sam!

Pretty soon Garrison arrived (that's Garrion Keillor, everybody!) and collected us all in the front few rows of auditorium seats to give us the showdown lowdown. We were each going to get 7 minutes to show the audience how wonderful we were, through our witty repartee with him, GK, as well as our music. Plus, he revealed that he had written a Guy Noir script the night before that featured all six bands acting and singing a yet-to-be-learned theme song in our own distinctive styles. He finished by explaining that he wanted us all to compete. This was not a collaboration, it was a competition! So we all put on our best snarls and ran off to get ready for soundcheck.

The remaining 5 hours before the Friday night, non-broadcast show were sort of a blur: last minute rehearsing in the dressing rooms; making crucial costume decisions; gorging on gourmet catered food; muttering Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin over and over again. Zara, Amanda, Daisy May and I were the only girls in the show, so we got to spend a fair amount of time bonding in the ladies' dressing room. May was just as sweet, talented and adorable as we had deduced from our pre-show reconnaissance (you know, MySpace searching). It proved impossible to keep up our competitive snarls around each other and we slipped into scheming about how fun it would be to tour together. Sorry, Garrison...

Honestly, the show itself was a blur, too. It was a thrill to sit backstage, listen to all the other acts play and watch the APHC cogs turn perfectly in synch. Then, somehow, we were onstage, chatting with Garrison and singing for a sold-out crowd who clapped with abandon and kindly laughed at our not-quite-funny jokes. By the end of the night, I think all the acts were feeling a bit better about the big show the next day...

We started Saturday off right with breakfast at Mickey's Dining Car. You may remember it from such movies as The Mighty Ducks (I, II & II) and Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion. As we were waiting at the counter for our orders we saw the fry cook making omelettes. I swear he put two entire sticks of butter in the pan before those eggs went in. Nobody likes a dry omelette, right? I recommend their homemade baked beans.


When we got to the theater, we all got to soundcheck again. They timed all of our appearances down to the last "Thank you very much" so they could make sure everything would fit in the 1 hour, 59 minute on-air time slot that evening. GK gave us yet another rewrite of the Guy Noir script (with more mentions of Piscacadawada- quoddymoggin Parkway, to be sure). Zara, Daisy May and I played with curling irons and hairspray and fussed over what outfits to wear.

Then the time came, as it always does, to put that last bobby pin in good and snug and get up to the stage. You can hear everything that happened onstage between 5pm and 6:59 here. You can be sure that there was a lot of hooting, hollering and hand-wringing going on backstage. If you listen to the archived show you'll hear that The Powder Kegs from Burlington, Vermont won first place. Congratulations, boys! (Even if you did only beat us by the skin of your teeth...0.1% of the vote!) We were second and our new friends Daisy May Erlewine and Seth Bernard took third.

Sweeeeet Smiles of Victory
With the stress and drama of cutthroat competition behind us, we all retired to the St.Paul hotel for a reception replete with decadent desserts, chilled wine and photo opportunities. Just about everyone from the Prairie Home staff made it over. We got Zara to do her crying baby impression for Tom Keith (the sound effects guy). He seemed pretty impressed but added, "I don't do babies or belches." Garrison convinced Zara and I to sing "The Sweetest Gift a Mother's Smile" with him as a trio. Then he and Zara rocked out on "Kansas City Star" (my fiddle solo on the latter shall be stricken from the record-- I already had two glasses of wine in me). Here's Zara & Garrison whooping it up on youtube.

Emily & Jesse fiddlin' down with The Powderkegs:

And just like that, the whirlwind weekend came to an end. We are honored to have had the chance to play on the show and thrilled to have worked with such top-notch performers and staff. Thanks again to everyone who listened in! Let's do it again sometime...

Keep on honky-tonkin!

Emily (and the rest of the Sweetback Sisters)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

March tour…post factum

Hey y'all,

Thanks for checking in on the Sweetback machine. We've had a busy, busy month full of dress shopping, driving, tie shopping, singing, more driving, blog creating (yippee!), and a healthy dose of worrying about a certain radio appearance (more on that later!).

I want to fill you in on some of our adventures on the first annual Sweetback March Madness Tour, which drew to a close in Burlington, VT not 2 weeks ago (We miss you, SMMT!). We kicked off the tour with a Herculean feat of van-packing: 2 fiddles, 1 telecaster, 1 lap steel, 1 'coustic, 1 baritone ukulele, 1 upright bass, 5 suitcases, 1 guitar amp, 1 garment bag with the all-important matching dresses, 2 pairs of cowboy boots, 4 cups of strong coffee and 5 scruffy musicians in 1 Toyota Sienna minivan. Whew! It should be noted that after we had driven the eight hours to Oberlin, Ohio from New York City with Ross pinned between the body of the bass and the back seat ("No. It's not that we won't...we just CAN'T let you out to pee, Thunder!") Zara said, "We TOTALLY could have fit more stuff in there!" Ever the optimist, our Zara.

Our sojourn in Oberlin was full of good things: meatballs, thrift stores, $4 cocktails (Goodbye, NYC! Hello, Midwestern College Town!), and a rockin' tour kickoff concert at Oberlin's Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse. We loved the Cat’s gigantic and delicious cookies (even the vegan ones… they’re magicians, I tell you!). We hadn't really played together in a few months, but once through Leather Britches was all it took to jog our collective memory and the show was a blast.

We bad Oberlin a fond farewell on Thursday morning. Luckily, we had picked up Stefan AND his Grand Marquis in Oberlin, so the drive out of town was infinitely more spacious than the drive in. The next stop was Cincinnati, where our dear friends the Tarbells had arranged not one, but TWO concerts for us. The first was at Arnold’s, one of the Queen City’s oldest watering holes. The stage was built to look like the porch of an old western saloon—very classy! And we got free draughts of locally brewed beer to loosen up our fingers and vocal chords. Queen City Show #2 was at Kaldi’s Coffeehouse in the Over-the-Rhine district. Highlights for me were getting to debut my favorite George Jones song, Tennessee Whiskey, and drinking shots of the same with Zara before our best ever rendition of I’ve Forgotten More.

The thing that struck me most about Cincinnati was its elegant architecture. Beautiful facades with intricately carved windowsills and colorful trim on buildings that seem impossibly narrow and tall. The old Ohio-River-trading-town grandeur shines through even with the Kroger corporate headquarters looming large in the center of town. We were thrilled to stay in a one such elegant Cincinnati house with the most elegant of Cincinnati families, the Tarbells. I don’t know if I can ever settle for less than 14-foot ceilings again.

The “Double A” highway led us eastward to Elkins, WV. The second half of that drive was particularly nice, after we had hit up a Flying J rest stop (somewhere in Kentucky) and loaded up on Ale-8-1 and Girl Scout Cookies. Luckily for me, the rest of the band is hooked on Samoas while I prefer the simple grace of Thin Mints—let them have their silly coconut!

Elkins is pretty much the cultural and political hub of central West Virginia. It houses a federal courthouse, Davis & Elkins College (which, in turn, houses the Augusta Heritage Center) and, most importantly for these chronicles, the best (only?) Venezuelan restaurant in West Virginia. Not only does El Gran Sabor have great food (try their beef cachapa or their pork empanada if you’re ever in town), but it hosts live music every Wednesday and Friday night. That night we were competing with the West Virginia Symphony (playing at the College) and a seven-piece Slovenian-style polka band called the Grkman Family (playing at the Arts Center) and still drew a great crowd. All that in a town of 7,000!

[Cue drum roll for the entrance of our hero, Caleb Stine] While we were in Elkins, I got an email from Caleb saying that our Baltimore venue, Dangerously Delicious Pies, had received a noise complaint and couldn’t have the show. “Disaster!” cried I. But as I continued to read, I saw that Caleb had ALREADY found us another venue. [You may be asking yourself, “Can this guy be for real?” Yes! He is. And you can listen to his music at]. So we recalibrated our foolproof GPS system (that’s me and my 2005 Wal-Mart Road Atlas) and headed off for The Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

It was the first beautiful Sunday of the year and the Inner Harbor was chock-o-block full of tourists. We really had no choice but to pull out our instruments and busk for an hour. We were half-heartedly chewed out by the owners of a couple of stores, but they came out to listen for a while in the end. I like to think we won them over with our feminine charms and siren-like voices. Jesse played by himself down the street and made almost as much money as the rest of us combined. The show at The Waterfront Hotel was quite fun. The headlining acts for the night were two local singer-songwriters, Andy Grimm and Ellen Cherry. We played a short but mighty set at the end of the night, wrapping up with two encores. The proverbial cherry on top of the whole night was that the owner of Dangerously Delicious Pies was so chagrined that our show had been cancelled that he brought us a big lemony reconciliation pie. We forgive anyone who showers us with sweets. And we love Caleb Stine. ‘Nuf said.

From there, we drove a few short hours “home” to New York. The next night, we played our first (?!?) full-band show in Manhattan (at the Baggot Inn). We’ve played many times in Brooklyn; Zara and I have done duet shows in Manhattan; but we had never before played a 6-piece show on that island. And what a show it was! Ben Sigelman and Jesse did their ever-wonderful cello/fiddle/guitar/banjo duo act to open. Ben raised the bar even higher this time by inviting two-time international women’s whistling champion Emily Eagen to join him for a couple of numbers. Only Emily can command the attention of a bar full of noisy drunks with controlled airflow through pursed lips. We had a blast during our set, too. Zara, Ethan and I were reunited on You Done Me Wrong.

Somehow, between our Baltimore (Sunday) and NYC shows (Tuesday), Zara and Stefan pulled strings and booked us a Wednesday (!) gig at the beautiful new home of the New England Youth Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont. Luckily we have Peter Amidon, the most well-connected man in Southern Vermont, on our side. He sent emails out to most of the population of Windham County, who then forwarded that information on to the rest. And the NEYT folks were just as nice and accommodating. They put our name out on their marquis. They enlisted students to serve coffee and brownies during intermission. They gave us use of their huge green room (check out the slideshow on our MySpace page for pictures!). So we held our breath, crossed our fingers and hoped that some people would show up! And show up they did. We had a wonderful crowd who laughed at all our jokes and danced cheek-to-cheek and clapped loudly. I love Brattleboro!

The final stop on the Sweetback Sisters March Madness Tour was Club Metronome in Burlington, Vermont. Our slap-a-licious bass player Joseph Dejarnette spends most of the year playing with The WIYOS, a vaudevillian ragtime un-jug band. You should definitely go hear them if they come to your town. They put on a jaw-dropping, thigh-slapping good show. Anyway, they were booked at Club Metronome and I finagled us an opening set. Also on the bill for the evening were the Powder Kegs and May Fly. We spent the pre-show afternoon like most good Burlington tourists—drinking coffee, scouring vintage clothing stores, wandering up and down Church Street. Zara and I found beautiful 1940s style dresses complete with little hip flaps and matching shrugs. And exorbitant price tags. Mm mmm. I’m still mourning the loss of those dresses.

The 4-act show started at 9:30pm. Club Metronome is neither for the weak of spirit nor the early risers. I guess college towns don’t attract people in either of those categories. Anyway, our friends Katie Trautz and Julia Wayne of May Fly kicked off the night with some great fiddle tunes and old-time songs. Then we took the stage for a set of the Sweetback Sisters greatest hits. The club was long on floor space and short on chairs, so people kind of stood in front of the stage and, after a while, the standing naturally morphed into dancing. We’ll have to remember that trick for later—don’t let the audience sit down! The WIYOS stole the show with their washboard antics and songs full of thinly veiled allusions to sex and hard living. And the Powder Kegs finished off the evening with an eclectic mix of music (didn’t I hear a Rolling Stones song in there?) that had the whole place gyrating.

And with that, the Sweetback Sisters and Brothers went their separate ways. Thanks for keeping updated on our antics. You can check in on our Calendar page to see if we’re coming to your town. If nothing’s on the books yet, let us know of someplace we could play near you!

Keep on honky-tonkin!

Emily and the gang

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Sweetback Sisters on A Prairie Home Companion!

Well the last few days have been a blur to say the least, and I'll tell ya why... A truly amazing beam of good fortune has hit upon our band The Sweetback Sisters!!! A month or so ago on a whim Emily and I entered a few of our recordings to a contest entitled "Talented Twenty-Somethings" held by NPR and the Prairie Home Companion gang. We figured it couldn't hurt to start spreading the word, but boy did we never expect to make the cut! Just this afternoon Emmy got the call, and they're flying us out and putting us up for the show/competition two weekends from now (April 20-21) They have yet to tell us what's at stake, but who gives a damn when it's every folkie's dream to be on PHC!

For those of you who do not know of i Home Companion, it's an extremely well known radio program now in it's 33rd year I believe. APHC is a live radio variety show created and hosted by Garrison Keillor. The show is broadcast from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Each show features a storytelling monologue from Keillor – a report from his fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon – and the best in American folk music: country, bluegrass, blues, and gospel, and sometimes, and all sorts of guest performers. This is a totally outrageous surprise, and an incredible opportunity for a band as new to the scene as us.

So here's the glorious catch: we still need your help & participation!!!! As you know in this American Idol generation everything is a competition, so we'll be running against a few other groups for the title (I don't know who yet!,) but we'll most likely need your call-in or online support the day of the radio broadcast April 21st. So please have your ibooks and iphones ready!

Thank you for taking the time to read this announcement, and for all your support. When I have any more information I will surely pass it along to all of you, and of course I'll send out some emails when the BIG day approaches!

Fitzgerald Theater

So so so much love,

Them Sweet Sweet Sistas


WHAT: A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor presents this season's talent contest—for performers in their 20s

WHEN: Live Dress Rehearsal: Friday April 20,2007
Contest/Broadcast:Saturday, April 21, 2007

WHERE: The Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E. Exchange Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101. 651.290.1221

TICKETS/FOR MORE INFORMATION: Go to for details, or contact David O'Neill at or Ticketmaster

**** And of course feel free to forward any info about The Sweetback Sisters to those that might be interested! *****

Hello world!

YeeHaw! Welcome To The Official Sweetback Sister WEBPAGE! We here at the SBS Headquarters have decided to go blog style, still offering you all the many wonderful things a webpage can, but with the hope of keeping people interested, updated, and honky-tonkin' tasty fresh!

So kick off your boots and stay awhile!

Vegas Cowgirl

Love & Country Music,

The Sweetback Sisters