The Chapin Sisters make you long to return to a place you may have never been before.
“Bergen Street” is the new single (Out Now, Lake Bottom Records) from Abigail and Lily Chapin, the sibling members of what looks like a folk music dynasty, but in reality, is a proud family that has been making music for decades in the most humble of traditions.
Father Tom Chapin is a Grammy®-winning singer-songwriter, late uncle Harry Chapin is a legendary artist and social justice activist (his #1 hit “Cat’s In The Cradle” is a timeless classic), and grandfather Jim Chapin was an esteemed jazz drummer.
The sisters’ first new music since 2017’s Ferry Boat, “Bergen Street,” which describes a stretch of Brooklyn road with its everyday “soot in the window ruts” and “air that smells of the tire dust” is an example of this humble and expertly crafted music-making.
It is voiced with stirring sisterly “blood harmony” in a way that only a family band – especially one with such a long history – can do.
“Lily wrote ‘Bergen Street’ as she was leaving Brooklyn to move back to the Hudson Valley village that we grew up in,” Abigail explains. “It’s a bittersweet ode. Not a sad moment, exactly, but wistful.
“We thought we’d be city people forever, but during the pandemic, I eventually did the same thing. We packed up our little families and moved back to the woods and the grass and the driveways.”
“I always write songs about places I leave,” Lily confides. “When I was first writing ‘Bergen Street,’ I was still feeling the sting of leaving the city behind. I think it never goes away. The first time I played it for my daughter, she cried.
“It’s hard to process feelings of loss and leaving things behind that you love. This song allowed me to remember what was unique and to allow the memories to become more vivid.”
Brooklyn memories that The Chapin Sisters have built over a lifetime, and for their family, many lifetimes.
“Our family is a Brooklyn family,” Abigail says. “Our Manhattan-born grandmother claimed she had never been to Brooklyn until she moved there at age 30, but her kids adopted a strong identity and connection to Brooklyn Heights.
“The six boys played their first concerts there as The Chapin Brothers in the early 60s and even though the brothers eventually drifted out of the neighborhood, Brooklyn Heights has remained our family touchstone.”
Lily adds, “The history of Brooklyn is steeped in our childhoods. Our Dad’s childhood, his brothers, Grace Church choirboys... Our Uncle Steve and family friend Phil Forbes pushing a piano up and down the street in Red Hook to play tunes at Fort Defiance.”
Even though the sisters are now building their memories outside of Brooklyn, the familial togetherness continues, and not just in front of the microphone.
“We recorded ‘Bergen Street’ at Lily’s house,” Abigail says, “This was surprisingly challenging in ways.
“We’ve got four young children between us, and with our husbands involved in the recording process as well, we needed to rope in grandparents to take turns watching babies, cooking meals, doing dishes, and swinging on swings in the yard.”
This style of working is giving the new recordings by The Chapin Sisters an even more intimate sound, and though it may slow down the process, the process benefits.
“We are slowly making our way through our recordings, one song at a time,” Abigail says. “It’s been interesting to approach it this way, focusing on one thing until it’s done, instead of flitting around from song to song.
“I guess leaving the city is a theme in our lives right now, and it is showing up heavily in this batch of songs that will become our next album.”
Like the brothers who drifted, it is hard to imagine the sisters leaving Brooklyn behind for good.
When I come back
Will the streets recognize my feet?
Will the wind recognize
The air that I breathe?
This thoughtful tribute to Bergen Street – the place The Chapin Sisters left – assures that it will never leave them.
“Bergen Street” is the new single and video by The Chapin Sisters, out now via Lake Bottom Records.