The Be Good Tanyas have been such an incredible presence in the evolution of Americana and indie roots music, it’s hard to believe they’ve only released three albums in their 13-year career. Granted, those three albums included some of the most remarkably well-written heartbreak songs (“Scattered Leaves”) and songs of hope (“The Littlest Birds”) in the genre. They’ve also recorded excellent renditions of other people’s songs (Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting Around to Die”) and old time folk standards (“The Coo Coo Bird”).
Now they’re readying The Be Good Tanyas: A Collection – an extended 16-song retrospective which firmly encapsulates their solid, inimitable, banjo-driven folk-soul. Indeed, the Tanyas are adept at straddling lines – classic and contemporary, old-timey and newfangled. Their folk instrumentation, paired with Frazey Ford’s deep delta soul vocals, has proven timeless in its innovation and cross-genre appeal.
The Be Good Tanyas: A Collection pulls together highlights of all three of their releases – Blue Horse, Chinatown, and Hello Love – with such seamlessness; it feels like this was the album they were reaching for all along, anyway. While the trio’s members have struck out the past few years with remarkable solo projects (both Ford and Sam Parton have released albums worth dropping everything to hear, as has Trish Klein with Po’ Girl), they’re reuniting this year for a tour around the release of this retrospective.
In the spirit of reunion, they included two new songs. Both “Little Black Bear” and “Gospel Song” fit soundly within the Tanyas repertoire, as if no time had passed since their last recording. As Canadians, they still present traditional American music better than most folks from The States, bridging eras in a way which is more natural than nostalgia, more art than anachronism.
Indeed, this is a disc meant to revisit the Tanyas’ creative accomplishments in a way which will remind long-time fans of their command over their craft, while introducing newcomers to their bigger picture. Kick back with a tall one and let them play you through a sweltering summer. No matter what, the Be Good Tanyas always keep it cool.