I picked up the new solo album by Jenny Lewis, of Rilo Kiley fame - it's not bad. She's better with Rilo Kiley than on her own, though (if you don't know what I am talking about, I urge you to look into it. Great band).
But that's not the point, really. I was astounded to see two familiar faces behind Jenny Lewis on the cover - the "Watson Twins." Turns out my wife and I have been fans of these girls for years, when we first saw them as backup singers for the unjustly obscure LA band Slydell. The songwriting was a little strained at times, but every element of the band was incredibly tight. It was an astounding collection of talent. And binding it all together were the two best backup singers I have ever heard - doesn't hurt that they are attractive, not-quite-identical twins from Kentucky who appear to tower up in the six-foot-tall range.
We discovered them in maybe 2002 or 2003 when we went out on a rare date-night to the Derby for one of these five-noname-bands-on-a-bill kind of nights. The first four bands were merely OK. We were tired and little drunk - and we were paying a fortune for a babysitter - so we wanted to go home. But we decided to stay for one last song. And on comes this band that was totally hypnotic. We stayed for the whole set, and we were totally haunted by them, even though we didn't even know the name until I looked up the Derby calendar the next day. After that, we caught Slydell as often as we could. For a while, they were the house band at Tangier in Los Feliz around the corner from our house.
Unfortunately, Slydell collapsed all of a sudden for reasons I have never been able to determine, and the parts of the band drifted in different directions and the singer, known only as "B. Roam," seems to have vanished completely.
I've kept an eye on the Watsons, and they popped up once in a while here and there backing up on obscure albums, including Joe Firstman's "The War of Women." And they formed a band of their own named Blackswan, which never seems to have gone anywhere.
But now, finally they are getting some of the attention they deserve thanks to Jenny Lewis. Lewis doesn't use them as much as she should - you can hear them on the first three or four tracks, then they fade for the rest of the album - but you can hear just how tight their harmonies are.
And I'm pleased to discover that they have their own album out, featuring a couple of the old Slydell players, including the incredible guitarist who calls himself just "J. Soda", and keyboardist Aram Arslanian, who will remind you why keyboards well applied can spell the difference between a good and a great production. It's a very good album - I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Watsons handle lead-singer duty, and they still indulge in plenty of their trademark tight harmonies. Great stuff. I am particularly fond of the odd little title song "Southern Manners."
Unfortunately, the only way to get is at a show or on their website. And the shows with Jenny Lewis are selling out fast (though you can hear them on KCRW.org on March 10). So check out the website. You won't be sorry.