Saturday, August 1, 2015

First Aid Kit's Heavenly Harmonies

How I found myself watching two Swedish sisters, backed by a pedal steel guitar and drums, performing at a National Park just outside the DC beltway is an interesting story.
But the better one is about the music created and performed by First Aid Kit.

Karla Soderberg looks like Central Casting’s version of a singer songwriter from the 1960’s; her acoustic guitar and lead voice drive the band. Her older sister, Johanna, with long strawberry blonde hair and a sylph-like resemblance to a young Mia Farrow, plays keyboards and sings harmony. Their voices are strong individually but when they harmonize, you realize why ancient sailors would steer their ships toward the rocks.

The comparisons that come to mind (Everly Brothers, Parton-Harris-Ronstadt) do not seem adequate. When they chime in, the audience seemed to do a collective jaw drop and listen in amazement.

Although their voices could sustain them as a cover band, their song writing kicks up their work to a memorable experience. Here are some examples from their latest CD, “Stay Gold.”

What if our hard work ends in despair
What if the road won’t take me there
Oh I wish for once, we could stay gold.
What if to love and be loved’s not enough
What if I fall and can’t bear to get up
Oh I wish for once, we could stay gold.

Their ability to make sharp musical turns is showcased on “Heaven Knows” which starts with this melancholy opening reverie,

You’ve spent a year staring into a mirror
Another one trying to figure out what you saw
Paid so much attention to what you’re not
You have no idea who you are.

Then they flip the switch and out bursts a rocking dance-pop song with the chorus:
Heaven knows, Heaven knows, Heaven knows you’re lying. It will stick in your head for days.

They closed their set at Wolftrap Farm Park with an earlier song, Emmylou, a tribute to country music giants:
I ‘ll be your Emmylou/ And I’ll be your June
If you’ll be my Graham and my Johnny too.
I’m not asking much of you
Just sing a little darling, sing with me.

Their show-stopper came a few moments earlier when they sang Paul Simon’s “America.”  For two young women who describe themselves as coming from the land of snow, polar bears, Ikea and Volvo, they captured the spirit of going to look for America in a sound that was haunting and beautiful.

Two footnotes: The rest of the traveling band is drummer Scott Simpson from Edinburgh and pedal steel and guitar player Melvin “The Tiger” Duffy from Brighton, England.   Stay Gold was recorded in Omaha, Nebraska, which is what happens when you get
“discovered” in Austin, Texas.

This is one of my daughter’s favorite groups and when I persisted in referring to them as The Band Aid Girls, she got me the CD and that’s how I ended up at the concert.


  1. A terrific review! You've alerted me to a sound I should hear. Thanks for the assay of their lyrics. Impressive indeed. Glad you saw and heard and them and that you shared your take.

  2. Funny. I was just reading an article about the life of the music stars living in Laurel Canyon back in the 60's and 70's. David Crosby tells how he played what was probably his best song ever for Joni Mitchell. She said something like "That's nice, David, now listen to these" and playing him four of her newly written songs that were all better than his! There's also a great picture of Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur and Linda Ronstadt sitting chatting in their dressing room in the Santa Monica Auditorium. Yes, gals can produce some great music! I'll check out the Band Aid Girls.