Combine the Texas swing of Bob Wills and Asleep at the Wheel with the music of Count Basie and Willie Nelson, add the vocal harmonies of the Mills Brothers and the Andrews Sisters and you’ll have an idea of the sound the Quebe Sisters will bring to the Barre Opera House at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 19.
Hailing from Dallas, these three very talented women are each an award-winning fiddler and great vocalist. Grace, Sophia and Hulda Quebe front an innovative, progressive western swing band that includes archtop guitar, upright bass and their three fiddles. The five-piece band presents a unique Americana blend of western swing, jazz-influenced swing, country, Texas-style fiddling, and Western music.
“They are sensational,” said Dan Lindner (aka Banjo Dan) when asked if he was familiar with this group.
“I happened to see these gals on TV and absolutely fell in love with their fiddling arrangements and the way they sang these songs,” wrote a Quebe Sisters CD fan on Amazon.com. “I knew I just had to have their music. It is real toe-tapping, put-a-smile-on-your-face music!”
“These young Texas ladies’ modern vibe kicks it,” wrote a YouTube fan. “They play classic Western tunes with a keen nostalgic ‘40s swing beat, incredibly tight trio harmony and mean trio fiddle playing.”
Another fan called them “the Queens of Western Swing,” adding, “Bob Wills would love them.”
“We differentiate our music as ‘progressive western swing” from simply ‘western swing’ because we aren’t trying to sound just like Bob Wills,” Grace Quebe explained in a magazine article. “Instead, we continue his vision, playing the style he pioneered in an authentic way by incorporating new genres and songs, interpreting them using our own unique voice through country instrumentation.”
The Quebes say they draw their influences from a variety of sources and styles. Among their most influential are the Mills Brothers, who perfected family harmony group singing from 1928-1982. There is also a nod to the Andrews Sisters, the popular trio that reached its height of success during the 1940s. The Quebes also acknowledge the influences of Texas and Oklahoma swing styles.
Grace Quebe explained, “We know each other really well; we have each other’s back.”
In their 20s today, the Quebe Sisters grew up studying classical violin as youngsters but were drawn to fiddle music early on. In 2002, at the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, Indiana, eldest sister Grace took first place in the junior division with middle sister Sophia placing second and youngest sister Hulda winning the junior-junior title.
In 2003 they released their first album, “Texas Fiddlers,” an all-instrumental album. Also that year, after hearing them perform backstage in Fort Worth, Texas, Ricky Skaggs invited them onstage during his show, where they played the western swing standard “San Antonio Rose.” Afterwards he invited them to perform at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. Since then they have appeared at the Opry numerous times.
In 2007, invited by the Cash family to record at Cash Cabin Studio, the sisters made their second album and vocal debut collection, “Timeless.” It featured the sisters’ three-part harmony vocals and included songs from the Sons of the Pioneers, Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys, Spade Cooley, and Duke Ellington.
Their third album, “Every Which Way” was released in 2014. The band’s stripped-down acoustic instrumentation breathes new life into the music.
“To us, preserving the tradition of western swing isn’t about keeping something alive like a relic. Western swing has always been about innovation,” says Grace Quebe.
While the Quebes have not visited Vermont in the past, they have shared the stage and toured with country, swing and bluegrass luminaries that include Merle Haggard, George Strait, Marty Stuart, Asleep at the Wheel and Ricky Skaggs. They have performed at concert halls and festivals throughout North America, Europe and Russia including the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center.
The Quebe Sisters are an attractive, original band performing music that has been a part of the American music scene for nearly a century, while making it their own.