Posted by: periodistalibre | August 28, 2014

The Secret Sisters Eschew the Down-Low

ssistersBy Holly Henschen

Aptly named The Secret Sisters are flirting with flying over the country music radar.

The Muscle Shoals, Alabama-based sister act released two albums, both produced by T-Bone Burnett. They recorded a 7-inch at Jack White’s Third Man Studio; he played guitar on both tracks. That’s a healthy helping of Southern cred, but what’s more: The Secret Sisters’ song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” graced The Hunger Games soundtrack. Hello, mainstream visibility.

Sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers’ most recent record, “Put Your Needle Down,” is a partial nod to the resurgence of vinyl. (The album is available exclusively at The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store). The antiquated audio trend plays well with The Secret Sisters’ neo-country sound infused with contemporary energy. Decorated with lady pompadours and classic microphones, the duo produces Southern country with nods to blues, gospel, bluegrass and folk. Layers of fiddle, lap steel and walking bass melt into a twangy background for their velvety voices and sweet harmonies. A testament to their something old-something new feel, the sisters’ latest record also features an ambitious and impressive cover of PJ Harvey’s “The Pocket Knife” juxtaposed with songs reminiscent of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn.

While obligatory country tearjerkers stock The Secret Sisters repertoire, their style alternates the traditional with upbeat and danceable ditties in short bursts.

First, the classic country. The sisters played “Iuka,” a murder ballad about two young lovers’ plot to elope in a nearby Mississippi town where a justice of the peace will marry them, on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The narrator seeks not just a husband, but an escape hatch from her tyrannical father. The dynamic, urgent tale’s eerie imagery and melody reaches fever pitch when haunting, impassioned vocals meet a shrieking fiddle.

The Secret Sisters’ versatility is a boon for the listener. The opening track of “Put Your Needle Down,” Rattle My Bones, has the tempo of a Go-Gos song with heavy tambourine. Laced with hints of early rockabilly, the song of anxious infatuation captures the ardor of new and possibly unrequited love while profiling the sisters’ wide vocal range and impeccably tight coordination.

Black and Blue” leans toward the style of a 1960s pop girl band, featuring hand claps and a bouncy plea for a lover to stay. Burnett’s analog recording style crisply recreates the feel of a bygone era while playing into the reverb-drenched surf sound found in the music of Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls.

The country revival grows stronger and The Secret Sisters won’t be hush-hush for much longer.

The duo is scheduled to play a seated show at The Majestic on Wednesday, Sept. 3. Madison’s Whitney Mann opens.




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