The Secret Sisters Tell It Beautifully on “You Don’t Own Me Anymore”

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The Secret Sisters are the New Voice of Folk, Americana

The Secret Sisters, Laura Rogers and Lydia Rogers of Alabama, have been kept away from the American mainstream for long enough. Yes, there are plenty of outsider artists who purposely defy definition. However, part of the reason The Secret Sisters are so intriguing to me, is that they are what I imagine Emily Dickinson would sound like if she’d had the opportunity to raise her voice in other ways. Their voices and the life situations they sing about are distinctly American, yet universal. The actual sound of their voices might remind some listeners of the girls in church choir who were kept from soloing for too long and took their voices elsewhere. But what is that old saying? You can take the young women out of the American South, but you can’t take the American South out of them?

The Secret Sisters’ new release, “You Don’t Own Me Anymore” will be available June 9, 2017. It is a music-loving wordsmith’s dream. I am more comfortable calling the tracks “narratives” than songs. The sisters make effective use of their high voices. The distinctive registers create tension and drama, as opposed to always indicating sweet and light situations and personas. The Secret Sisters remind audiences of the power of feminine voices. In an age when too many female singers opt to tell it like it is using (sometimes strained) lower registers, it is almost shocking to hear young women sing candidly of their love lives–their virtue, their heartbreak–their spiritual lives, and the state of the world, in trained, unadulterated voices.

Tennessee River Runs Low

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6otfalsX8Jc

The metaphor of this haunting tune that sounds like part hymn, part bluegrass singalong,  is that the narrator senses kinship with rivers. In particular, the river of the title. Listeners are treated to imagery and sense of place usually reserved for novels by John Steinbeck. Visions of rolling tides, catfish, and rivers capture the natural world brilliantly.

The One I Love is Gone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFiN7dxlqKo

If there is a Southern Gothic category in music, then this song belongs in its canon. The sisters voices ring in mournful harmony, both of them in upper registers. Something about the vocal styling is reminiscent of 1970s Linda Rondstadt. Lyrics about “little bluebirds” on what must be a desolate “mountainside” are intertwined with the theme of lyrics about two lovers who have parted forever. A moody stride piano and guitar does most of the tone setting. The drums shuffle until it is time to push the song to its next line or verse. Homespun and dark. I would expect no less from The Secret Sisters.

A Parting Look at The Secret Sisters

While the new album is promising, if listeners are new to the work of The Secret Sisters, then I recommend checking out 2014’s “Put Your Needle Down.” Songs like “Iuka” and “River Jordan” (on the deluxe version) and “Pocket Knife” will serve as perfect introduction to the duo.

The Secret Sisters are selling out shows with their homespun heartache and Bible Belt faith. They wrap it in a world-weary harmony that shocks and comforts simultaneously.

 

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