MCLA Presents! to Bring the Vintage Honky-Tonk of the Sweetback Sisters to Taylor's


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' MCLA Presents! series will continue its 2010- 2011 season on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m., with some country swing from The Sweetback Sisters at Taylor's Restaurant in North Adams.

The Sweetback Sisters will ring in the holiday season with their vintage style of honky-tonk: singing their new songs, as well as early country classics and holiday tunes that will entice the audience to sing along, according to Jonathan Secor, MCLA director of special programs. 

The Sweetback line-up features the vocal pairing of Zara Bode and Emily Miller. Their music is as infectious as it is heartbreaking, wrapped around a core of deeply felt love for traditional country music styles and a palpable joy in playing and singing together, Secor said.  

"With superb musicianship and an appreciation for times gone by, the Sweetback Sisters' members infuse their throwback sound with youthful intensity and broad influences," according to NPR Music. 

Their repertoire combines several of the Sisters' passions - country music from before they were born and new interpretations of those traditions - to create a fresh take on what it means to be country. Infusing their own personality and off-kilter sense of humor in their music, The Sweetback Sisters have a charismatic charm that is hard to resist, Secor said. 

Bode and Miller will be joined by instrumentalists, including: West Virginian Jesse Milnes; Stefan Amidon on drums; Ross Bellenoit on electric guitar and Peter Bitenc on upright bass.

 "When he's not ripping solos on the Telecaster," Miller said, "Ross (who toured with Amos Lee opening for Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello in the fall of 2007) is comping in a way that sets the tone for the whole band. Stefan has been playing drums all his life, and beyond his general savoir faire he also has a great sensitivity to lyrics and form."

While several of the members have jazz training, an equal number have a solid background in playing folk and traditional music. "We definitely err on the side of modernity at times, but Jesse's foundation in old-time square dance music keeps the band from getting too heady and out of touch," Miller said.

According to Secor, much of the spark that ignites the Sweetback Sisters' flame comes from Bode and Miller's distinct (and distinctly different) upbringings. "I'm very new to traditional country music," Bode said. "But where I do not have the familiarity with those traditions that Emily does, our varying approaches are what make the pairing unique. She brings the roots, and I bring the retro."

The Sweetback Sisters debut EP Bang! was released in early 2007 and earned them a spot on A Prairie Home Companion's talent contest for 20-somethings. Their first full-length album, "Chicken Ain't Chicken," was released in 2009 on Signature Sounds Recordings.

Openers for the MCLA Presents! event will include Lux Deluxe, a young, rock-and-roll band out of Northampton, Mass., and the MCLA Allegrettos, a student acapella group.

The Sweetback Sisters are being co-presented with the Railway Café.

General admission is $12. Tickets are $8 for MCLA alumni and $5 for MCLA faculty and staff as well as non-MCLA students. Tickets are free for MCLA Presents! members and MCLA students. To reserve tickets, call (413) 662-5204.

For additional information and a complete listing of the season, call (413) 664-8718 or visit presents.

MCLA Presents! is a project of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center ( bcrc).