The Stairwell Sisters
Get Off Your Money

Two women who found they liked to sing together and practiced their harmonizing in a stairwell at their workplace: that was the beginning of the The Stairwell Sisters. There are five musical sisters now, who all sing, and between them play more than a dozen different acoustic instruments. They open this album with a barn burning rendition of the tune Kentucky Winder, which lets all the instrumental chops out, starting with Stephanie Prausnitz on the fiddle. Through the generous seventeen tracks they trade vocal leads and support each other with guitar fiddle, banjo, cello, bass, voice, and feet. Yes, feet. If you go to see the Sisters live, you’ll find that clogging by banjo player Evie Ladin is a lively part of their show, and they find ways to get that on record too, especially on the traditional song Stay All Night. They source their music from Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi, and Tanzania, and from their own creative imaginations. There’s a helping of humor in the title cut, questions of social justice in Who’s to Blame, a tradtional song Swing Low which may be the precursor of the well known Swing Low Sweet Chariot, a song about a rascal, a song about playing music all night, and a waltz inspired by a hike up a mountain in Northern California.

Through all this, the five women play with energy, good humor, right on instrumental skills, and singing in tune with the old time yet modern day vibe of the band. In addition to Prausnitz and Ladin, Lisa Berman, Sue Sandlin, and Martha Hawthorne make up the group. Each musician came to the band through a different route, some from old time, some from bluegrass, some through rock n roll. The Sa Francisco Bay area based band now takes their music across North America and around the world. If you enjoy the high energy roots based music of groups like Nickel Creek and Old Crow Medicine Show, give The Stairwell Sisters a listen. This project was produced by Lloyd Maines, who has worked with The Dixie Chicks and Terri Hendrix among others.

Kerry Dexter is a contributing writer at the folk and world music magazine Dirty Linen. and the.former folk music editor at She also writes about music, the arts, and creative practice at the award winning blog Music Road

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