Record Review - 2 December 02 2000

Non-purists should applaud the folksy Nields sisters' decision to push their unplugged envelope and add full-studio instrumentation to their acoustic sound. Unfortunately on their fifth album (their first for new label Zoe), they didn't go far enough.
While the multiple keyboards, clarinet, violin and a full page (in small type) of contributors testify they have lots of talented friends, the results, regardless of their rhetoric about Beatles-styled production experimentation, sound about what you'd expect from an ambitious duo of sweet-voiced sisters with acoustic guitars and lots of lyrics plopped on top of wandering tunes. In other words, committed, intriguing and bland.
Sure, the "Eleanor Rigby" string quartet on "Maybe It's Love" is tender, and the "Penny Lane" trumpet — along with the jaunty Brit-Invasion pep that sparks "May Day Café" and "Jeremy Newborn Street" — adds snappy bits of merry olde England to the folk/pop proceedings. But these cute aberrations never quite gel with the rest of the lyrically somber, acoustic-based album.
Ultimately the sublime Roche-styled sisters try too hard to stuff their square peg of swirling harmonies and literate songwriting — a song cycle about the physical and philosophical limitations of home — into the round hole of perky studio production. It's an interesting and valid approach, but one that needs more innovation, a focused direction and better melodies to succeed.
The Nields play the Red Light Café, Thurs., Nov. 30.