By Sarah Bennett
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By Jena Ardell
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AlL right, before you start wondering, let's just get it out of the way: yes, they're the Watson Twins as in Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. Yes, they are those two really-mysteriously-sultry-women in the mirror image blue dresses standing in the hallway on the redrum-ish cover art of Rabbit Fur Coat. So, yes, they did gain worldwide popularity and recognition with the help of the indie rock household darling that everybody knows and everybody loves (and/or wants to marry).
But there's much more to the Watson Twins than that: the Louisville natives gracefully straddle that fine line that now exists between country and indie rock—and before you say alt. country, they're not exactly that, either. One of the standout features of Leigh and Chandra Watson's debut EP, Southern Manners, is its remarkably indiscernible quality. These days it seems every band wants to sound like a nearly identical throwback to their genre of choice, doing everything they can to appear and sound like whatever it is they're striving for. Whether it's finding the boots Ronnie Lane wore or the shirt Gram Parsons donned by doing a Google image search of the Flying Burrito Brothers, it seems time is put into everything except the music. But the Watson Twins have a powerful vocal delivery, one with some real twang and depth that's the sort of thing everyone from you (or any music fascist, for that matter) to your mother could enjoy. Their sound has been oft-compared to everyone from Chan Marshall to Emmy Lou Harris and Lucinda Williams—yeah, their music is that charming—but what they've got comes from not caring about what genre or category you're going to be lumped into.
The same brilliantly malleable qualities hold true in Southern Manners as well. Russ Pollard (Sebadoh, Everest) and J. Soda (Slydell, Everest) not only can be heard and seen during the Watsons' live performance, but they also co-produced Southern Manners. The group decided to take an analog approach to recording the EP, and the end result is this soul meltingly warm, earthy and, most importantly, natural sound. The best treat is that the Watson Twins and band are thoroughly capable of delivering and recreating versions of what we hear on Southern Manners live onstage.
Though the Twins now reside in Silver Lake, where they got their start in the Los Angeles music scene nearly 10 years ago (yup, way before making audiences coo in adoration on a worldwide tour with Jenny) working with area notables such as Orphan Train or Earlimart, their southern roots play a definitive role in their sound. This is most evident in the EP's title track, on which the Twins ask for someone to be both a lover and a man—and then invite said compliant man over for a slice of pie. But "Shoot the Lights Out," a dreamy piano-laced track with all the right harmonies in all the right places, not only shows the Watson Twins at their best but also seems to serve as their anthemic mantra: "The story's always better than the truth/So tell me what you want to see/And I'll give it back to you/I'm not the mystery you'd hope to find/But I'm here now and I'm willing to play the part anyway."
The Watson Twins with Greater California and Vavak at the Prospector, 2400 E. 7th St., Long Beach, (562) 438-3839; www.prospectorlongbeach.com. Tues., 10 p.m. $6. 21+