Now based in New York, Hannah Hickok and Maggie Kraus met when they were both part of the Smith College Smiffenpoofs, forming folk pop duo Hannah & Maggie in 2010. They released their first record Fine Being Here in February 2011, and their second Muscle & Bone on the day of Kraus' graduation in 2012. Since then, they have signed with Purebred Records, a label launched and run by students at University of New Haven. Drawing praise comparing them to Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, their acoustic harmonies are warm, sweet and solid. If In The Company of Strangers is your introduction to this openly gay duo who are active LGBTQ advocates, you'll be drawn to check out their previous releases by the time you've finished listening to the almost too short (but really perfectly right) record.
While the record is focused around Hickok and Kraus' clear and pure harmony and acoustic guitar, other instruments are added throughout to great effect. Strings add depth, and percussion gives the listener something to tap their feet along to, but there is never an issue of any of the instrumentation becoming overpowering. It allows to changes in mood and style, keeping things moving through the record.
Like the fellow ampersand-users Lily & Madeleine, Hannah & Maggie can also be compared to Swedish duo First Aid Kit. They have a more lively sound than the young sisters; "The Final Straw" is high energy bordering on country festive. But they can be just as softly sweet, while still retaining the necessary strength. They manage to keep old phrases from sounding rote, like "getting the old gang back together" in "The Old Gang." Unlike weaker folk pop groups, Hannah & Maggie manage to keep things interesting by switching up their sound, while still creating a cohesive record.
There's a palpable sincerity to this music, nothing sounds formulaic or forced. In The Company of Strangers was released on February 25; check out a full stream courtesy of Curve Magazine. You can find the record for purchase on iTunes or Amazon. The duo will be playing a few shows in support of the record, check out the tour schedule here. Check out the music video for "Field on Fire" below!