Peasall Sisters' 'First Offering' Is On Their Own Label
One of the many delights of the Grammy Award-nominated "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack was the gospel singing of White House, Tenn.'s young Peasall Sisters. For the soundtrack, 14-year-old SarOne of the many delights of the Grammy Award-nominated "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack was the gospel singing of White House, Tenn.'s young Peasall Sisters. For the soundtrack, 14-year-old Sarah, 11-year-old Hannah, and 8-year-old Leah Peasall overdubbed the singing parts of the actresses playing George Clooney's daughters on their performances of "In the Highways" and "Angel Band."
The trio later performed on the "Down From the Mountain" concert documentary shot in Nashville and last year's reprise at Carnegie Hall in New York, as well as at Bill Gaither Southern gospel "Homecoming" concerts appearances and the Grand Ole Opry.
Now available just in time for the sisters' participation in the just-launching Down From the Mountain national concert tour is their debut CD, "First Offering," on their own Peace Hall Records label. The disc includes hymns, traditional country standards, and contemporary acoustic tunes and is currently only available at concerts and on the label's peacehall.org Web site.
The name of the label and site, notes group manager Denise Stiff, plays off their often-mispronounced family name (pronounced pea-saw). But there's no mistaking the Peasalls' appeal.
"There's nothing like that 'blood' harmony -- and they certainly have it," says Bill Cody, morning host at Nashville country station WSM-AM, who recently hosted the Peasalls on his show ahead of their performance at the Opry Mills Mall.
"I just think the world of them," Cody continues. "They're so wholesome and well-mannered, and they have a marvelous stage presence."
Cody is hardly alone in falling under the Peasall Sisters' spell. "A lot of people call them 'the Adorables,' since [Nashville daily newspaper] The Tennessean always calls them 'the adorable Peasall Sisters,'" mother Sally Peasall says. "We're working really hard to keep it from going to their heads."
To that end, the girls still have to change their baby sister Emma's diapers. And all three confess to being more than mere sugar and spice and all things nice. "Whenever we practice for a show, we just look at each other and crack up laughing for no reason," Leah says. "But most of the time we argue, because that's what sisters are for."
Daughters of the music minister at a Baptist church in White House, the Peasall Sisters come from a musical family steeped in the contemporary praise-and-worship music of the Southern Baptist denomination.
"Both their mom and dad sing and play, and their grandfather Gigi [Jim Brasher] plays fiddle on ['First Offering' album track] 'Amazing Grace,' " says Stiff, who executive produced the "O Brother" soundtrack. She notes that while the girls have recorded previously on Christian music sessions, their album debut is geared to the broader audience the "O Brother" phenomenon established.
"The primary emphasis was on making something that they could sell on the road," says Stiff, noting intense interest in such a product from the many people who have seen the Peasalls -- who are currently without booking representation -- play live. "But it needed to be acoustic-based, in keeping with the kind of music on the Down From the Mountain tour."
Produced by Christian music guitarist and family friend Dennis Dearing, the album is missing the Peasalls' two "O Brother" tracks, due to the "hold-back period before they can record them again," Stiff explains. But the girls did cut a version of the soundtrack's "Keep on the Sunny Side," a Carter Family chestnut that was performed in the movie by the Whites.
"It's one of our favorites," says Sarah, also citing the album's cover of another Carter Family classic, "Carter's Blues."
"I like them, too, because we played them ourselves," adds Hannah, who plays mandolin. (Sarah plays guitar; Leah plays fiddle.) Further singling out "Carter's Blues," Hannah says, "It was really fun to do, because it's a lot different than all the other songs: It just has more of an old country sound."
Sarah notes that the album material was chosen by sorting songs that were pitched their way and those already in their repertoire into three categories. "The first was, 'We love it, it's fantastic and has to be there,' the second was, 'It doesn't give chill bumps, but we like it,' and the third was, 'Definitely not.'"
Stiff now looks to preserve the Peasalls' sense of being "genuine kids," she says. "I haven't given much thought about marketing, to be honest, but we've already got Christian labels calling, and I think others will be interested as well. But I don't want too much too fast: I love the fact that they're little girls, and when they get tired of working, they just go off and do something else. Right now they're having a good time, and as home-schooled kids, they're having a great experience seeing the country."
Citing the girls' "innocence, tenderness, and sweetness," Cody "couldn't be happier for them. And now they're part of a Grammy-nominated project. They can't possibly know what a big deal that is-and there's something neat about that, too."
They've even been allowed to see the movie that made it all possible -- finally.
"We couldn't see it before because of the bad language," Sarah says. "But my dad got the DVD version and tried to mute [the offending words], and it's an awesome movie. We practically have the whole thing memorized and still go around saying the lines to each other."