The first time I heard The Quebe Sisters, I was standing in the woods on Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon at the Pickathon music festival. It was a private session of stripped-down songs, played in a quiet setting away from the larger stage and big crowds—and very intimate, except for the film crew and microphones jammed into the 10 by 10-foot concrete and wood pumphouse. I didn't actually see them directly until they emerged—but what I heard instantly transported me to another time. It was the romantic and sentimental song, "Going Away Party," by Texas songwriter Cindy Walker. The sound coming out of that little shed was so pitch-perfect and golden-toned, I thought it had been pre-recorded and auto-tune processed. It was as if the Andrews Sisters of the 1940s had emerged from the fires of time with their close harmony style and dropped down to the forest, fiddles in hand.
The Quebe Sisters (as in "maybe" and "baby") are comprised of sisters Grace, Sophia and Hulda Quebe—named after two virtues and a grandmother—and all three are virtuosos in their physical and vocal instruments. Bored with traditional Suzuki violin lessons, they witnessed their first fiddle contest, thought it looked like good fun, and at ages 7, 10 and 12, began lessons together, allowing their skills and their set list to progress at the same rate. It wasn't long before they began showcasing their talents, rising together through curiosity and state competitions. They understood structure, harmonies and played parts, and amazingly, it was only then that they finally sang.
Their title track and album "Every Which-a-Way," takes its name from the original artist who recorded it—Texas-born Moon Mullican, the "King of the Hillbilly Piano Players" who incorporated honky-tonk, country, swing and blues into his playing style.
Mullican played with bands that performed the western swing music made famous by Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys, and later joined the cast of the "Grand Ole Opry"—a stage the sisters have graced themselves. The Quebe Sisters have collaborated and performed with the likes of Willie Nelson, George Strait, Merle Haggard and Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, among many others. With their blended style of swing, jazz, vintage country, bluegrass and Texas style fiddling, The Quebe Sisters are carrying on the Bob Wills western swing tradition, keeping authentic music and Americana alive... and doing it all with the grace, wisdom and sweetness that their very names prescribe.
The Quebe Sisters
Saturday, March 18
Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend.