Sunday, July 30, 2006

Katryna and Nerissa Nields, Birchmere, 2004

Washington Post (5/4/04)

The Nields, Standing Tall at the Birchmere

For a few moments at the Birchmere on Sunday night, amid the blare of what only a hard-core punk would consider a folk band, Katryna Nields was silent.

It wasn't her doing: She appeared to be singing, but the audience just saw a mouth moving. A few small repairs, though, and her keen voice, with its distinctive warble, cut through the joyful noise of the Nields.

The band — Katryna, sister Nerissa Nields on vocals and guitar (and the author of most of the songs), Katryna's husband, Dave Chalfant, on various guitars, Dave Hower on drums and Paul Kochanski on bass — wasn't always as tight as it might have been, and the clarion ring of the women's harmonies was sometimes overwhelmed by bassy rumblings. But the Nields sensibility was there in full force: high-energy, extroverted pop, tinged with both whimsy and clear-eyed sorrow.

The sisters' new album, "This Town Is Wrong," is a companion piece to Nerissa's soon-to-be-published young-adult book about teenage musicians, and the band dished out songs like the angst-riddled "When I Let You Into My Closet" with the earnest verve of kids 20 years their junior. Bitter and thrashy on "Bulletproof," Patsy Cline-dreamy on "Sara, With Your Ring" and crisply elegiac on "This Is the Work That We Do," the Nields never wavered, even in Katryna's sometimes lengthy monologues. Pogoing, babbling, offering a brief operetta salute to baby pants, Katryna and her compatriots were shiny happy people with an appealing tart-apple bite.

Pamela Murray Winters

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