Concert Review: The Quebe Sisters @ Caffe Lena, 06/22/2023

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Soaring their way through two ripping sets of fiddle music that defied to be pinned to one genre, the Quebe Sisters, with their virtuosic instrumental and vocal harmonies, dazzled all in attendance at their Caffe Lena show on June 22nd. Mixing a blend of sounds that borrowed from Western swing, gypsy jazz, and folk – all filtered through a dash of Vaudevillian flair – the band, comprised of Hulda, Grace, and Sophia Quebe, along with Daniel Parr on upright bass, and Simon Stipp on guitar, delivered one hell of a performance.

Throughout the night, the band couldn’t be beat, playing in tight rhythmic fashion. One of the things that really caught my ear was how full the band sounded! Covering more than enough low-end that night, Daniel Parr, complemented the Western fiddle sounds with an ever-pervasive walking bass line. In some of the pieces, such as “Teardrops From My Eyes,” he was able to shine, adding in solos that are wildly unexpected for this type of music.

Having one fantastic singer in a band is superb, but having three is a whole other level. Whether it was Grace singing lead on songs such as “Lullaby” – not to mention the subtle addition of her snare drum on this song – Sophia’s delivery on “My Life, My Love, My Friends,” a song inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem, or Hulda’s often tongue-in-cheek nature, there wasn’t a single flubbed note. About a third of the way through the second set, chronicling a type of new-age voyeurism, Hulda delivered her re-write of “Home on the Range,” performing “Drone on the range.” An aspect of the show that I really enjoyed was the sisters’ ability to tie in the material with what was going on at the time, often remarking on the geneses of the given tunes. Inserting dry comedy along the way, it became quickly evident how comfortable the band was on stage.

Photo by Joe Deuel

One of the highlights of the entire night – and definitely the peak moment of the first set – was when the three sisters began playing a reel, one right after the other, before ending the piece playing all together. Not only were their dynamics incredible – receding and pushing forward at all the right moments – the sisters’ intonation, both vocally and instrumentally was off the charts. Another fantastic instrumental that night was one of their own, entitled “Load at 7 (Leave at 8),” which occurred during the second set. During this song, we had a chance to hear Parr’s bow work. It should be no surprise to anyone reading this, that like the rest of the night, it was fantastic.

Perhaps an understated aspect of the show, Simon Stipp’s laid-back, yet always on time, rhythm guitar parts established a solid bedrock for all others to weave in and out of the mix. Without this, a lot of the timing and feel surely would have fallen apart. Unassumingly important, it was nice to hear a guitar part that complemented the material without ever becoming self-indulgent. This was especially the case on the cover song selections of “Georgia On My Mind,” as well as Willie Nelson’s “Summer of Roses.”

By the end of the night, there wasn’t a single unappreciative audience member in sight. Everyone, whether it was their first dalliance with the Quebe Sisters or not, seemed to have the time of their lives across the band’s two sets. Blending genres from those the likes of Django Reinhardt and Willie Nelson, there was a lot packaged into one evening. If they’re ever playing in your area, you should check them out. You won’t regret it.

Photo by Joe Deuel

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