Nerissa & Katryna Nields,
Love & China
(Zoe/Rounder, 2002)

Now billed as a twosome, Nerissa and Katryna Nields have retained the signature sound of their former band the Nields on their newest release, Love & China. The key to the Nields' sound over the years has always been the slightly quirky combination of the sisters' voices. Despite the duo billing, former band mate Dave Chalfant is very much involved in this record -- as bassist, producer and husband of Katryna; former band mate Dave Hower also appears on drums on several tracks.

Love & China offers a listener-friendly collection of songs all written by Nerissa, which vary from the folk-rock that the Nields are known for, to alt-country and even alt-pop -- maybe even alt-power pop in the case of several songs such as "Yesterday's Girl," which in some alternate reality would be, could be and should be huge hits. Perhaps this is what the alt-labels are really all about. "Ticket to My House" leads off the album with a nice slice of folk-pop that would also go down very easily on the radio.

Tracks three through six move resolutely into country territory, with "Love Me One More Time Before You Go" sounding more traditional than alt-, featuring pedal steel guitar and a classic story of soon-to-be-lost love. "Tailspin" follows with some wonderful fiddling by Alicia Jo Rabins and excellent production to match. Look out Dixie Chicks! "I Haven't Got a Thing" continues the country groove established by the two previous tracks.

Intelligent and clever writing also makes this record special. On "Christmas Carol," the Nields put their unique vocal stamp on Christmas with an original song that uses the titles of familiar Christmas carols in the lyrics. Lines like "Merry Christmas, new born baby" in addition to the obvious Christmas connotation, have a nice double meaning as a reference to Dave and Katryna's daughter Amelia, who was born just before the recording of this album began.

The title track is the high point of the album with another strong pop arrangement and great lines like "I was young but I looked twenty-seven, you were old but you acted like eleven." With a tone that sounds incredibly autobiographical, this song gets intense with lyrics such as "All I ask is that you treat me like a friend, and walk me through the shards of all of your lies, through the broken love and, the broken china, all along the shore of the Jealous Sea." With songwriting this good dominating, it's easy to forgive the indulgence of memorializing a deceased dog on "Eulogizing Emma," performed solo by Nerissa. With first-rate songs, musicianship, vocals and production, Love & China, the Nields' 10th album, could well be their most fully realized and best effort to date.

[ by William Kates ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002

Buy it from