The Quebe Sisters — Grace, Sophia and Hulda — have made a career out of distinctive sounds. Like two-part close country harmonies? They’ve got a three-part sisterly blend. Have a craving for Texas fiddling? They provide it in triple measure. Western swing and classic country in your mental jukebox? The Quebes (KWAY-bees) do all of that and more, creating what they brand “progressive western swing.”
Thanks in part to proximity and the long western swing tradition of Waco’s Johnny, Dick and Emily Gimble, the Dallas-based Quebes are no strangers to Waco. They’ll bring their blend of classic and new back to Waco Thursday night with a show at the Waco Hippodrome.
The Quebes’ triple-fiddle, triple-vocals sound gets rounded out with rhythm guitar (Simon Stipp) and upright bass (Daniel Parr), and although there’s plenty of vintage western swing and western country in their repertoire — think Bob Wills, Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Connie Smith, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and more — there’s plenty of new material, both written by the Quebes and arranged for their distinctive sound.
“We love jazz, specificially swing jazz,” explained Grace, the oldest sister at 33, with Sophia at 31 and Hulda at 28. The trio has a fourth album in the works, a follow to 2014’s “Every Which-a-Way,” that features some originals, many by Sophia, that Thursday’s Waco audience will get to hear.
For their youth, the Quebes have been in music more than half their lives. Suzuki violin lessons as kids turned to Texas fiddle ones after the Burleson threesome heard a 1998 fiddle contest in Denton. Lessons with Burleson-based Texas fiddle champions Joey and Sherry McKenzie followed; Grace was 12 at the time, Sophia 10 and Hulda 7.
They were quick learners in the long-bow technique favored by many Texas fiddlers, such as Johnny Gimble. Sophia was Texas state fiddle champion in her age category in 1999 and 2000, Hulda in 2000 and 2001 and Grace in 2001.
The McKenzies nudged them into performing as a profession and over the years the Quebe Sisters expanded from dates around Dallas-Fort Worth and Texas to across the country.
On the way, they added harmony vocals, which required a firmer defini- tion of who took the melody and who played harmony. “We ended up playing together, pretty much at the same level . . . When we do instrumentals, it doesn’t matter who does lead or harmony,” Grace explained.
Voices have a natural tuning that fiddles don’t, so Sophia tends to take the lead singing, with Grace and Hulda harmonizing.
In nearly two decades of performing, the Quebes have found a niche in Americana music, amassing a Who’s Who of classic venues and programs: the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry, the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., New York City’s Lincoln Center, the National Folk Festival, public television’s “Austin City Limits,” public radio’s “Prairie Home Companion” and “Mountain Stage,” MerleFest and Connie Smith’s induction in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Their Waco appearance comes during a spring that features touring on the East Coast and Midwest.
By continuing to add fresh and original music to their repertoire, the Quebe Sisters pay a true tribute to their western swing heritage. Even so, Grace admits “listening to the old stuff” helps recalibrate their sound. “We wish there was more,” she said.