In 2014, the Haden Triplets – Petra, Rachel, and Tanya – released their eponymous debut album on Jack White’s Third Man Records label. A sterling collection of vintage country songs, the LP was distinguished by the siblings’ chill-inducing harmonies. The daughters of jazz bass legend Charlie Haden (who died in July of that year) pay homage to their father’s exceptional music history, first as a singing (and yodeling) 2-year-old member of his family’s country-music act and his later years as one of the most influential jazz instrumentalists from the Fifties right through to the last decade of his life. In 2008, he revisited his country roots with the deeply personal LP Rambling Boy, which featured guest appearances from Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, and Ricky Skaggs, along with the Haden Triplets and their brother, Josh Haden.
Today, the Haden Triplets announce The Family Songbook, set for release in January on Trimeter Records. The LP pays loving homage to their dad with an ethereal rendition of one of the most famous folk-gospel songs of all time, “Wayfaring Stranger.” Its connection to the Hadens can be traced back to their grandmother, who used to sing the song to young Charlie when he was a boy. Stricken with bulbar polio at 15, the illness affected Haden’s vocal cords, robbing the youngster of his voice, although in 1999, Haden sang an extraordinary version of “Wayfaring Stranger” on his album The Art of the Song.
“I love the intimacy and close, upfront, raw sound of the vocals,” Rachel Haden tells Rolling Stone. “And it reminds me of Dad, of course.” “He sings with such feeling and emotion, that I think it’s one of the best vocal performances I’ve ever heard,” adds Petra Haden. In a 1999 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Haden said of “Wayfaring Stranger,” “It’s a song about life. I always had this deep need for the beauty of life — the reason for life, and the preciousness of life, and how precious every moment is that we’re alive, and how we should really do everything that we can to enhance this life that we have and this planet that we live on. And this song just evokes that to me.”
With their version of the song, which has previously been recorded by literally hundreds of artists, from bluegrass icon Bill Monroe to Scottish pop legend Lulu, the Haden Triplets capture the tune’s hopeful spirit of the promise of an afterlife in a sparse vocal arrangement that’s reverent yet experimental and intensely soul-stirring.
Produced by Woody Jackson, The Family Songbook also includes a flamenco-tinged version of Kanye West’s “Say You Will” and “Every Time I Try,” penned by Josh Haden, acclaimed for his work with genre-defying band Spain. Instrumentalists on the LP include Jackson on bass, Bill Frisell on guitar, Joachim Cooder (son of Ry Cooder) on percussion, Jay Bellerose on drums, and Greg Leisz on pedal steel. The Family Songbook will be released on January 24th.