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Wellfleet to the World

Parkington Sisters

Equipped with all different types of instruments, the smiling sisters welcome a round of applause from the audience after a performance. Photo by Kian Oringer

By the second show, they had written an original song. They continued to hone their sound and esthetic, sometimes taking the stage barefoot in formal gowns. During a summer 2010 show at Wellfleet’s First Congressional Church, Ken Casey, co-founder and singer of the Dropkick Murphys, caught their act. Impressed, he offered an opening slot on some upcoming shows.

The Dropkick Murphys—Boston punk rock mainstays who’s “Shipping Up To Boston” was the anthem of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed—virtually adopted the group as its preferred opening act, and the Parkington Sisters accompanied them on a tour of Canada and California that summer. “We’re travelers at heart,” says Nora.

In March, Ashley Capps, co-founder of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, caught the Parkington Sisters when they opened for the Dropkicks at a New York City gig. Capps offered the sisters a coveted invitation to play at the festival, which has drawn roughly 80,000 music fans to rural Tennessee each summer for the last decade. Nora recalls being in the audience with her sister Rose years earlier.

At a Dropkicks show in Boston this past St. Patrick’s Day, the sisters got to meet special guest Bruce Springsteen before he went on stage. “He was so nice, so genuine,” says Sarah. They were all chuffed when he complimented Lydia. Sarah recalls Springsteen’s words: “‘You’ve got an amazing voice, rough in all the right places.’”

For their debut full-length album Till Voices Wake Us, the Parkington Sisters teamed up with Joel Hamilton, a West Yarmouth native and New York City music producer whose credits range from post-punk icon Elvis Costello to pop idol Justin Timberlake. He has high praise for the sisters’ vision. “They have this unified aesthetic, something other rock bands could take a lesson from,” he says. Hamilton says bands often have a shorthand of their own, a language that develops among a closely knit creative unit, a cohesion only intensified in a sibling band.

“It’s like an iceberg flying a kite,” Hamilton says of the Parkington Sisters’ music—meaning, their sound possesses a certain weight. “They have a beautiful melancholy, like a black-and-white French film. It’s heavy without loud guitars. It’s heavy in the way it affects your mind.”

And the Parkington Sisters have an undeniable magnetism—they don’t play to audiences so much as vaporize them. Last spring, before big tours took them across the country, the sisters appeared at the Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans. Center stage, bowing her cello was the pixyish Lydia, who all but slurred out her lyrics to “Sailor Song.” The haunting tale of a soul’s destruction on an indifferent sea seems almost impossible for a teenager to have penned. Says Blood, “Doesn’t that sound like it was written a hundred years ago?”

Rob Conery is a frequent contributor to Cape Cod Life.

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