The Lonesome Sisters


LS REVIEWS...The Lonesome Sisters were voted Best Acoustic Duo of 2006 by Gibson Guitars: Lonesome Sister "Backstage Pass" Gibson Guitar Article

"Crystalline harmonies and mournful tunes..." The Boston Globe on the Lonesome Sisters at the Newport Folk Festival

 "Sarah Hawker and Debra Clifford make music in a frequency that the soul can hear, with a reminder around every bend of "Deep Water" that this is song writing and singing of the highest order. This is music to be savored, and shared, and talked about." -Joe Newberry

"My listeners and I love the Lonesome Sisters music. Warm, authentic and beautifully crafted, the albums are a joy." -Bob Harris BBC RADIO 2

On The Lonesome Sisters with Riley Baugus CD 2: "The Lonesome Sisters’ sound is straight out of Kentucky or West Virginia. Intricate acoustic guitar, upright bass and shimmering harmonies fill these beautiful bluegrass ballads. "We try to open the door in this life here below, but only God’s golden key will unlock our new home,” sings vocalist Sarah Hawker in "God’s Golden Key." "Oh Sleeper" begins with banjo and Hawker’s powerful vocals: "One terrible beautiful morning…I’ll shake off time from this body and meet you in that eternal home." Thoughts of home and jilted lovers populate Going Home Shoes. We even get some old time religion as Hawker croons “You want forgiveness, tell it to Jesus that’s his job not mine.” A few traditional tunes make an appearance, and it’s a testament to the Lonesome Sisters’ songwriting that listeners’ ears will easily slide from the traditional to original without noticing any change in style or song quality." Performing Songwriter Magazine Top 12 DIY Picks

On The Lonesome Sisters CD 1: "The warm plainitive voices of Sarah Hawker and Debra Clifford were simply destined to be entwined. Chad Crumm's production makes you feel like you are in the room with them. Their own compositions are indistinguishable in spirit and quality from the traditionals or Stanley Brothers songs here. Instrumental accompaniment by Clifford, Crumm, and Rose Sinclair (Heartbeats, Planet Zydeco) is all the more compelling for its restraint. "Omie Wise" features Hawker's voice unaccompanied and is the most chilling rendition I have heard. (BC) Dirty Linen Magazine

"Ever feel lonely? Sure, we all do. Cleverly, two musicians pinpointed this universal emotion last year and decided to package and sell it. Of course, nearly every artist has presented some pining and aching to the public, but these ladies are running with it. They've even named themselves after their woes: The Lonesome Sisters. Admittedly not a huge fan of Appalachian folk tunes or traditional country music, I heard ten seconds of The Lonesome Sisters' latest release, Going Home Shoes, and was immediately smitten with their hard hitting authenticity. And when I say latest release, I'm referring to the one from May 2004, not the self-titled debut from April 2004. Kinda prolific, these two. Curious yet? Their harmonies are smackingly clear and infectious. The Sisters keep it simple, employing only soulful vocals, rhythm guitar, and an occasional fiddle or banjo. The sparse instrumentation only serves to accentuate their introspective themes of tragedy, loss, and heartache. There are plenty of shivers in the Sisters' forlorn repertoire, but their minimal instrumentation is made a little warmer on Going Home Shoes by bassist June Drucker and banjo player/fiddler Riley Baugus of Cold Mountain soundtrack fame. So, if you're feeling a bit hopeless in these last few chilly days, or you're just dejected in general, this old-time-feel duo is sure to pluck a few heartstrings. Come share in those moods we all know so well: painful one night stands, night's starry wings, and bridges leading home." Sharon Nichols, Chronogram Magazine

On The Lonesome Sisters with Riley Baugus CD 2: "Sister, brother and family singing groups have long been part of the country/bluegrass scene with the Delmore, Monroe, and Stanley duos and the Carter Family being the most popular. Similar language backgrounds as well as similar genetic voice qualities have made traditional sibling harmonies a powerful blend. Sarah Hawker and Debra Clifford are the Lonesome Sisters and their voices blend seamlessly in the old style.......The second album with Riley Baugus was released this year and while the wonderful harmonies are still first and foremost, the song selection and instrumentation shows the evolving sound of the group. Riley Baugus' guitar immediately makes its presence known as he weaves a tapestry of notes around Debra's gospel song, "God's Golden Key." The melody soars and the voices follow in tight formation. Debra also sings a mournful version of "Rain and Snow" with some perfect upper register voicings on the drawn-out notes of snooooooow. Sarah has written 6 of the songs and her themes follow the stories of loves lost either voluntarily or involuntarily. "Token Reminder" has a Hazel Dickens flair with the tale of a cheap silver keychain as the only reminder of a man done gone. "They All Pale" is the familiar story of starting over in the quest for love only to find the old love in every new encounter. Riley Baugus adds some strong vocal harmony on Sarah's version of the traditional gospel song, "Sing to Me of Heav'n," and some high-spirited fiddle with Debra on the "Highlanders Farewell." The matching of Riley with Sarah and Debra is a wonderful combination, and hopefully Riley will continue to join this exciting duo in the future". Brenda Hough, Read complete review at the California Bluegrass Association, Dec 2004.

On The Lonesome Sisters CD: "If this CD is any indication of what they're capable of, I don't think that the Lonesome Sisters are going to be lonesome much longer! Their debut CD on their own Tin Halo label showcases sometimes edgy, sometimes sweet vocal duets, accompanied by their fine guitar and mandolin playing. The Sisters can flat out sing, and they have obviously worked hard at that hand-in-glove phrasing that makes duo singing so powerful. ". Joe Newberry Old Time Herald, Nov 2004

On The Lonesome Sisters with Riley Baugus CD 2: On The Lonesome Sisters CD: Their voices are well-matched, and the arrangements are mostly very simple to highlight the singing. Sarah's strong voice clearly benefits from some family heritage. The selection of material is excellent, and the two original songs are as good as the other vocal contributions. On The Lonesome Sisters with Riley Baugus CD: The second CD has six of Sarah's originals, including "Forgiveness," which won the 2004 Merlefest songwriting contest, and one by Debra, "God's Golden Key," an excellent gospel number. The other five include Ole Belle Reed's "Go Home Little Girl," "Rain And Snow," "I Met With Wild Bill Jones," "O Sing To Me Of Heav'n," and "Highlanders Farewell," the only instrumental. About half the CD has a strong traditional feel. "Forgiveness" is a country song in the spirit of "God May Forgive You, But I Won't." In fact, all of Sarah's originals on this CD are rooted in classic country style. There is a bit of hard-core old-time here, such as Riley's fiddling on Emmett Lundy's "Highlander's Farewell," but these two CDs are primarily collections of very fine singing and songwriting. The more I listen to them, the more I want to listen more. -Steve Goldfield, Bluegrass Unlimited, Nov 2004

On The Lonesome Sisters with Riley Baugus CD 2: "Sarah Hawker is a strong song writer. Debra Clifford is a rock solid guitarist. Both are accomplished vocalists. June Drucker is a bass players' bass player. Riley is, well Riley-a monster musician. Riley adds a nice old time feel and mountain edge to the later part of the CD. His reading of "I Met with Wild Bill Jones" has a classic old-time feeling. His duet with Sarah on "O Sing to Me of Heav'n" is edgy old style mountain singing. This is a strong recording of a mixture of traditional and original material. The song writing is powerful, the performances are heartfelt, and the production is first rate". -Bob Buckingham, Old Time Herald, Nov 2004

"At Ram Radio our motto is "Listen to the Circle...Unbroken!" The Lonesome Sisters embody that spirit and we are proud to play their music". -Pam McCluskey, 

"This is the first time we hear the lonesome sisters we like it so much. If Jesus came tomorrow I think He has a CD from the lonesome sisters in His pocket". CD Baby Reviewer: cees-jannie

"The Lonesome Sisters ain't so lonesome anymore, they're right beside other fine artists, like Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs on my show. Keep up the good work girls!!" -Paul Johansen

"In an age where country and oldies and standards stations are disappearing from radio, and those stations that call themselves country don't play classic artist or any artist that keep traditions alive, No Johnny, no Tammy, no Loretta no Tanya, and certainly no doc or bill or any of the bluegrass greats and Oh yeah no carter family, it's good to know that some folks are keeping American music alive. In an age where Fahrenheit 451, the basic burning of musical history in the interest of younger audiences and the stupidity of people who say something like "well we don't play the Lonesome Sisters because well that's an NPR audience, not ours” the Lonesome Sisters are basically the main character in the classic Ray Bradbury book mentioned above...keep the music alive a little piece at a time passing it on to the next person, and the next and the next." - Ken Lawrence

On Music in Danville series, VA: "Sarah and Debra played beautifully, and it was a wonderful and intimate introduction to their soulful music, at least for me. Debra's Gibson guitar, played delicately and precisely but with emotional power, almost provided a third member to this talented duo. Their songwriting and execution was introspective, entertaining and meaningful". -Chris Okay, Danville, VA

"Speaking of revelations! Two albums by The Lonesome Sisters, a duo consisting of Sarah Hawker (lead vocals) and Debra Clifford (harmony vocals, acoustic guitar and mandolin), just found their way to our CD-player, one being their self-titled debut album, the other their just released sophomore effort "Going Home Shoes", a collaboration with string wizard Riley Baugus, known around here for his contribution to the "Cold Mountain" soundtrack. And both of these collections turn out to be highly addictive. Earlier this year Hawker's song "Forgiveness" proved to be the winning entry in the country section of the annual Merlefest songwriting contest, a competition that has already given so many a great talent a distinct push in the right direction in the past. That song can be found on the second album by The Sisters. And it's only one of the many, many highlights on the above double treat. What catches the ear immediately when first listening to both of these records is the truly astonishing way these two ladies are harmonizing. The way Clifford completes Hawker vocally recalls the heydays of major acts like The Stanley Brothers, The Delmore Brothers, The Louvin Brothers and The Carter Family. Backed up by a minimum of instruments, comprising an acoustic guitar, a clawhammer banjo and a fiddle, on their maiden record Hawker and Clifford in an angelic way weave the web, in which some of their own songs, a couple of traditionals and tunes like "Could you Love Me One More Time" by Carter Stanley, "Old Flames" by Hugh Moffatt and "Let Your Light Shine On Me" by Blind Willie Johnson get caught. Spine tingling beautiful mountain music is the result of all that. Follow-up "Going Home Shoes" benefits by the acoustic bass contributions of June Drucker and the string cameos of Riley Baugus (guitar, clawhammer banjo, fiddle) to sound a little more accomplished-and as a result of that a little warmer too. And on top of that Hawker and Clifford resolutely go for a few more of their own songs this time around. Except for the lauded "Forgiveness" and the achingly beautiful title cut especially "God's Golden Key" and "They All Pale" floored us. And another one of those beauties is the respectfully approached cover of Ola Belle Reed's "Go Home Little Girl". When thinking about a reference that amazing last record of Grey DeLisle, "The Graceful Ghost", kept on coming back to our minds. If you liked that one too, The Lonesome Sisters surely deserve your attention." (4**** out of 5, Ctrl. Alt. Country e-zine, Belgium, October 2004)

"Sarah Hawker has lived inside the music she writes, rather than observed it. It shows from the first sound from her mouth. It's hard, it's sweet, it's lonely, it's funny - all in the same song. Combine that voice with the high, clear sounds of Debra Clifford and you know the true meaning of Harmony. These two young women are new to some ears, but the singing they do together is universally ancient. Listen to the Lonesome Sisters - sitting alone, with a cup of tea, in your favorite chair, wrapped in your grandmother's quilt". Ginny Hawker

"Rivet your attention to The Lonesome Sisters and their artful arrangements, well-crafted songs and hypnotizing voices if you know what's good for you!" Tracy Schwarz

"The Lonesome Sisters draw from many wells, each seemingly deeper than the last, letting us taste the sweet water that lies below. It's water that's been flowing underground for ages, sparkling water, waiting for a pair of voices with just the right power and sensibility to pour it out into a Mason jar." Peter Fraissinet, Salt Creek Show, WVBR-FM, Ithaca NY

"The Lonesome Sisters are comprised of vocalist Sarah Hawker and Debra Clifford on vocals and guitar. If the name Hawker seems familiar, Sarah is the niece of master traditional vocalist Ginny Hawker. Sarah was also one of the recipients of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriter's Award at Merlefest 2004. It's fascinating to trace the progress of musical talent and these two recordings, while released within a year of each other, show a tremendous development in the duo's performing style and songwriting ability. Debra Clifford and Sarah Hawker have produced two recordings of great tenderness and beauty. Anyone who is a fan of wonderful harmony singing and well-written songs will truly enjoy the work of The Lonesome Sisters".-Tom Druckenmiller, Sing Out!  (Sarah's song "Going Home Shoes" was also included on Sing Out! compilation CD)