It’s a rare band that transcends its time and place to sound totally at home in another era. But when you listen to the debut album from Portland, Oregon’s vintage country songstresses Copper & Coal, you just might swear you’re hearing it through a jukebox in a roadside diner, somewhere off Route 66 in the 1950s. A powerhouse collaboration between singers Carra Stasney and Leslie Beia – one brunette and one redhead, both Michiganders packing elegantly expressive pipes, and both nearly 6 feet tall – Copper & Coal captures the spirit of classic country duos with a contemporary West Coast sensibility. On their album, Carra and Leslie’s voice swing and sway in tight harmony over soaring steel guitar lines and old-school country fiddling. Their songwriting sounds freshly conversational even as it saunters its way through the familiar territory of honky-tonk, heartache, and the man who done you wrong. Produced by Portland roots icon Caleb Klauder (of Foghorn Stringband and the Caleb Klauder Country Band), the album features stellar guest artists on mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel, dobro, even Cajun accordion from master musician Jesse Lege.
Carra and Leslie met in Portland, but both cut their teeth gigging in Lansing, MI. When a mutual friend put them in touch last year, the musical chemistry was instant.Their voices were just meant to go together – “Sometimes I can’t tell my voice from hers,” says Carra. They started sitting in on each other’s solo sets, and Carra wrote “Kentucky Blue,” a soaring harmony ode to the open road, inspired by their collaborations. The duo debuted at the 2012 Siren Nation’s Dolly Parton tribute – appropriately enough, as the great Dolly herself ranks alongside Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, and the Davis Sisters as Copper & Coal’s favorite influences. Since then Carra and Leslie gigged throughout the saloons and barrooms of Portland’s burgeoning roots county scene, and performed at the 2013 West Coast Country Music Festival.
Their debut album features mostly original songwriting, but it’s like an instant portal into a Saturday night party back at that Route 66 roadhouse. Paying homage to the harmony sister duets of the golden age of country, songs like “Faraway Places” and “I Can’t Believe I’ve Fallen” show Carra and Leslie’s fidelity to the country swing tunes and ballads that inspire them. In “Dreamin’ Ain’t Waltzin’,” Carra tips her hat to country legends Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, and Link Davis as she imagines dancing with each of them in a dream. Swinging from raucous to mournful, heartbreak ballads like “I Love A Gambler” and Dolly Parton’s “Dagger Through the Heart” will have you searching your pockets for change to make one long-distance call back home. But Copper & Coal is here to lift your spirits and shake the dust off your boots, too. “Good Time Gal” just defies the listener not to tap their feet and sing along. Why even try? Give in to the charms of these sweet voices, shuffle a little two-step around the jukebox, and kick your heels up alongside the ghosts of Hank and Kitty.