• The comedy duo plays satirical country music that includes hit songs like “Wrangler Butt.”.
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So there’s no confusion, The Famous Haydell Sisters is a total put-on.
Donna Kay Yarborough and Sadie Bowman play the sisters (Mattie and Maybell Haydell) as a country-western “Spinal Tap” — a pair of teen-queen superstars who fell from grace 20 years ago and are in the midst of a comeback tour. They are getting rave reviews as part of this year’s Rogue Festival. Their final performances are 9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 5, and 5 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at The Voice Shop, 1296 North Wishon Ave.
The pair works hard to keep with the fictional history. Along with a collection of satirically hilarious country songs with titles such as “Your Broken Heart,” they have an expansive backstory for the sisters (including a performance in Fresno back in 1992).
They also do interviews in character. Everything that follows should be taken with a wink.
In their heyday, the Haydells sang chart-topping tunes and ran with country music’s biggest stars. Garth Brooks was a close friend, Mattie Haydell says. It was Mattie, in fact, who encouraged Brooks to explore his Chris Gaines alter ego in the late ’90s. So, no, they don’t talk much anymore, though she’s happy he’s back on tour and in the spotlight.
The sisters have fallen out of favor with pretty much everyone from their past, including their fans.
When they reunited last year, they weren’t expecting to immediately return to playing sold-out arenas, but they figured someone would remember them, at least.
“We’re lucky to get two people to listen to us on a street corner,” Mattie says, in a Southern drawl that’s straight out of Tennessee (though it could be Texas).
She is exaggerating some. The sisters landed a standing gig at the Rialto Corner Bar in Portland, Oregon, where they now live. They also play to bearded hipsters and crusty old gamblers at dive bars (and the occasional off-track betting spot) around town. The old guys tolerate the sisters. The hipsters actually seem to like the music, Mattie says, though it may be ironically.
“I’m not sure how to take that,” she says.
But these days, The Famous Haydell Sisters see more chair dancing than line dancing.
“There’s also lot of falling off of bar stools,” Maybell says.
Gone are tour managers and record-company handlers. The pair schedule their own shows (and press interviews) and play without fancy stage productions or a backing band. Their latest album, “Stripped Down,” was released on Bandcamp last month and re-envisions hits like “Wrangler Butt” as softer, acoustic numbers. It’s billed as the sisters’ first release since 1993.
The reunion is, in part, an attempt to cash in on the nostalgic resurgence in all things ’90s, Maybell says. People are remembering the decade, and mostly in a fond way. Getting back into music made good business sense, she says.
There was a period of readjustments.
Mattie hadn’t played her bass guitar in 20 years. Maybell hadn’t even left her house. She had some legal issues with an unnamed country star and may or may not have been a fugitive.
She was taken by how much the weather has changed since she was last out in the world.
“The climate is weird. It’s warm at times of the year when it used to be cold,” she says.
Then there’s the technological changes. Mattie can hardly text, “much less put a tweet on a Facebook page in a timely manner.”
The reunion has allowed the women to shed some of the innocence of their early days and tackle more heartfelt, honest topics, like open relationships and one-night stands.
It’s also allowed the sisters to reconnect.
“This tour has a lot to do with family,” Mattie says.
And heavy drinking. The two are linked.
“Blood is thicker than water,” Mattie says.
It’s also thinned by whiskey, she says.
“That’s how people tolerate each other.”