The Doll Sisters

Sibling harmonies ready to soar at festival

The Doll Sisters set to showcase cover tunes and engaging originals

  • Aug. 23, 2010 8:37 p.m.

A gifted pair of local siblings can’t wait to light up the stage with their own compelling brand of roots tunes at next month’s Central Music Festival Aug. 13-14.

Hailing from Rocky Mountain House, The Doll Sisters (Jenna, 18 and Shelby, 17) love the fact ‘roots’ genre gives them opportunities to cover the music they’re most passionate about including bluegrass, Celtic, folk, cowboy, Appalachain and East Coast.

Their set at the Festival runs at noon on Aug. 14.

But they don’t only cover material from other artists, they’re honing their own songwriting skills as well. Music was something that was always appreciated around the house as they were growing up.

They also started out singing harmonies in the little log church near their family’s farm.

“When we were really little, we would sing at church,” says Shelby, adding that the girls’ parents enjoyed many different types of music. Celtic, cowboy and bluegrass are the types that perhaps stand out most in their memories.

Over the years, music continued to take a more prominent role in their lives and the list of influences kept growing from Alison Krauss & Union Station, The Rankins and the Carters to James Taylor, Great Big Sea and The Dixie Chicks.

And although an appreciation for music and growing skills at performing were surfacing through their growing up years, it’s really been since 2007 that Jenna and Shelby have been regularly playing gigs and flourishing in their musicianship (Shelby plays fiddle while Jenna handles guitar, banjo, bodhran and ukulele). Both share lead vocals.

“We’ve been building a stage presence,” says Shelby, adding that sometimes the nerves try to surface but it’s about channeling that energy in a way that enhances onstage shows. For the Central Music Festival show, their set will cover a range of musical sensibilities. “We’ll try to get a little bit of everything in there, something everyone will like.”

As for what the girls’ enjoy listening to, Jenna says their main influences are perhaps the most attractive choices. But that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy contemporary rock and pop. Still, they ultimately find themselves gravitating to the distinct warmth of the roots style most of all.

They wrapped production on their debut disc Looking Out last summer and it proved quite the whirlwind learning experience, says Jenna. They recorded the project ‘live off the floor’ in about two and one-half days.

Opportunities to expand their performance repertoire weren’t long in coming. Stints include performing at Alberta Arts Days 2009, opening for three-time Covenant Award nominee Keith Kitchen and also touring with the bluegrass band SGQ+2. In the meantime, they’d like to record several demos over the coming months. Another full-length CD is certainly planned however.

Looking ahead, both girls say they’d like to pursue musical professionally after they wrap up high school studies. For now they’re enjoying every step of the journey. The studio is a blast, but connecting with audiences is really when the magic happens, says Jenna.

“It’s easier to create special moments because you’re feeding off the audience’s energy.”

Meanwhile, organizers of the fourth annual Central Music Festival are hoping for at least a thousand fans to enjoy the music this year.

The Friday night and all day Saturday family-oriented, outdoor festival takes place on farmland just north of the city on township road 392 (directions on website). There will also be a beer tent, a kids’ show with Trent Tinney, crafts for sale and local vendors selling food and beverages.

The Friday night line-up opens with the Half Chance Heroes, a Red Deer band that won the festival’s talent contest, and includes Ross Stafford, St. James Gate, the Backwoods Roots Revue, the Ron Hubbard Band, John Rutherford and Great American Taxi closing with The Trews.

Saturday’s line-up includes Dick Raidek, Holly & Jon, the Black Pioneer Heritage Singers, Lisa Heinrichs, F & M, Oldbury, The Command Sisters, Jim Byrnes, Jenny Allen, Chris LeBlanc and winds up with country singer Shane Yellowbird.

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