The eponymous debut by The Secret Sisters – aka Laura and Lydia Rogers of Muscle Shoals, Alabama – poses itself an enormous challenge: that of recording (mostly) old songs, on old equipment, with some fairly venerable musicians, without sounding like a prim, worthy exercise in curation. That the album is a minor triumph is testament to both the durability of the songs, and the astonishing gifts of the singers.
The Secret Sisters are protégés of T-Bone Burnett, who serves as executive producer and has assembled a formidable array of country royalty behind them. The album was produced at Nashville’s Blackbird studios by Dave Cobb (Waylon Jennings, among others), and features such stellar session sidemen as pianist Pig Robbins (George Jones, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn) and steel player Robby Turner (whose parents played with Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys, and who has himself contributed to records by Waylon Jennings and Dixie Chicks, among others).
Even against that competition, the sisters are the stars. Their sprightly harmonies meld with the unforced ease often heard in singing siblings, and they manage to infuse even the oldest songs here with a guileless zest that makes it sound like they just heard them for the first time. George Jones’ Why Baby Why is recast from maudlin bitterness to broached innocence, Bill Monroe’s The One I Love Is Gone draped in fabulous gloom, and Cliff Friend’s All About You and Buck Owens’ My Heart Skips a Beat twinkle with artless joy.
Of The Sisters’ two originals, Tennessee Me and Waste the Day, it can be fairly said that they’re not embarrassed by the company they’re being asked to keep. This is a delightful start, promising much.
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