Stairwell Sisters

While certainly overrated in rock 'n' roll, instrumental virtuosity gains a bit more credence in bluegrass and folk circles. San Francisco's Stairwell Sisters features five women who attack an assortment of string instruments with a veracity that rivals some of rock's most venerated fret-burners. Feet All Over the Floor, the band's sophomore effort, features 20 banjo- and fiddle-fueled burners and functions as both a tribute to old-time string music and an awe-inspiring display of finger-picking. Featuring harmonies that are nearly on par with their instrumental prowess, the non-original numbers in the band's repertoire are examples of true Americana: Irish reels, Appalachian folk tunes and pre-war ballads, played with a gospel spirit and an expressive playfulness. Rarely have songs taken from the public domain sounded so modern and vital. Check out "Where the Flowers Bloom Forever" or "Weary, Weary World" and try not to be taken in by the dogged authenticity and infectious exuberance of music played for love and not material gain.

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