It doesn’t take long at a Secret Sisters’ gig to know where they reside within the 21st Century country music movement and it’s definitely not in the Nashville Music Row community that generates much of the current country radio output. No sooner had main vocalist Lauren Rogers totally dismissed the beer and beach songs, surely a subtle dig at Kenny Chesney, the Sisters were launching themselves into a cover of George Jones’s 1950’s number, ‘Why Baby Why’. However the irony of the situation is that the Sisters are enjoying a meteoric rise via considerable industry backing that has seen them tour extensively across the world and rub shoulders alongside such luminaries as Paul Simon, Willie Nelson and Ray Lamontagne . Yet the Sisters are comfortable with their remit to recreate the traditional sound of their Alabama upbringing by re-interpreting old country and folk songs as well as developing their own song writing skills.
The Glee Club in Birmingham caters more for the singer-songwriter genre rather than that of country music but a near capacity audience on this final Sunday night of January enthusiastically received and totally immersed themselves into the incredible harmonies of the siblings aided by the accompaniment of just a single acoustic guitar. This was partly due to being a third visit to the city and a return to the same venue within a year but it showed signs of a loyal following being developed.
The Secret Sisters’ set was conveniently packaged within three defined categories. They announced early into the show that this would be the final time they are touring to promote their self-titled debut album and by only including four songs on the night are beginning the process of moving on. With a view to the future, the set included five new songs which are being lined up to be the backbone of their upcoming sophomore album. These included the Alabama tornado inspired ‘Tomorrow Will Be Kinder’, the spiritually influenced ‘River Jordan’ and an attempt to write a home state anthem with ‘King Cotton’. All these songs signalled a shift away from covering old time country songs but still retained a traditional feel. However a Secret Sisters’ show will always be sprinkled with their interpretations of timeless songs and this time the work of Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and Willie Nelson, amongst others, were incorporated and celebrated in the set.
The onstage banter between the extrovert Lauren and the slightly more serious figure of Lydia displayed a growing confidence in the art of entertaining an audience but in the end it’s the fabulous harmonies, incredible timing and ability to recreate a sound, where music seemed less complex and more authentic, that truly captivated those privileged to be present. This was beautifully portrayed in the final song of the evening; the acapello delivered ‘Tonight You Belong To Me’.
The girls vowed to return later in the year following the release of their second album and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were joined again by the evening’s support act, the Canadian singer songwriter Lucette, who is also a find of Sisters’ producer, Dave Cobb.
Country music has a long history of harmonic siblings producing some very fine music and the Secret Sisters are a duo that looks set to carry this on in the 21st Century.