Dana & Karen Kletter

A few years ago Granta subtitled its controversial “The Family” issue “They fuck you up”; if Dear Enemy (Hannibal), the first album by identical twins Dana and Karen Kletter, had been out then, the magazine could’ve included it as a subscriber’s bonus. The 12 songs address a broad array of issues with stories and memories–some sad, some angry, some nostalgic, all of them poignant. Listening to them is sort of like paging through somebody’s scrapbook without that someone there to explain each photo or clipping. There’s bitter sibling rivalry in “Sister Song” (“She’s lost or broken all of my things / And she’s wearing a pair of my earrings / We tell each other everything / Too bad neither one of us is listening”), recollections of an itinerant childhood in “Flight Into Egypt,” and ruminations on simple summer days at the beach in “Beach Song.” The sisters also share a more obviously personal memory by performing “Raisins and Almonds (Rozhinkes mit Mandlen),” a Jewish folk song their grandmother used to play for them, and cover Scrawl’s “Your Mother Wants to Know.” Although the album, which came out last year, is the only one the sisters have made together, Dana has quite a few others under her belt. She made two terrific collections with the dark art-folk trio Blackgirls in the late 80s and early 90s and more recently did another with the scrappy but lyrical folk-rock band Dish. She worked with the great folk producer Joe Boyd (Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Sandy Denny) when she was in Blackgirls, and when he heard an impromptu performance by the twins he suggested they record together. It took them nearly a decade to do so, but Boyd was right: the Kletters’ folk-flavored, piano-driven songs are filled with sophisticated melodies and gorgeous harmonies, and while sometimes the musical component can get a bit ethereal for my tastes, the lyrics cut against the softness to expose raw nerves. The Kletters will be joined by local violinist Susan Voelz, who also plays on the album; Chicagoan Rose Polenzani, who has a new album on Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s Daemon label, shares the bill. Friday, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Winston Kletter.