The Secret Sisters | Saturn Return | (New West)
4 out of 5 stars
The secret’s out.
The Muscle Shoals based folk/pop sister duo of Laura and Lydia Rogers received high profile production and backup assistance on 2017’s You Don’t Own Me Anymore from Brandi Carlile and her longtime Hanseroth twins band. That exposure, and of course the Rogers siblings’ sumptuous harmonies and introspective songs, helped put The Secret Sisters’ third album in front of far more listeners than before. Perhaps not surprisingly then, that collaboration has returned for album number four.
This next go-round, three years later, kicks off with the a cappella harmonies of Laura and Lydia singing about respecting ageing women in “Silver” with “Look upon your mother and the silver in her hair/Consider it a crown the holiest may wear,” sounding like a female version of the Everly Brothers. It’s a sweet, genuine show of reverence and a continuation of motherhood passed down through generations. The following “Late Bloomer” picks up that thread with a lovely Carole King-styled piano based ballad “Late Bloomer.” The song concerns both the frustrations of the inability to conceive a child, and the joy of finally being able to, in a better-late-than-never scenario. It boasts a chorus so effortlessly melodic and soulful you’ll be singing “It matters that you do” after the last note has faded.
In the charming country waltz-time “Tin Can Angel” the sisters look for assistance from above as their harmonies soar on “I want your wings to carry me onward/And your halo to light my way.” On the other side of that angelic coin is “Water Witch” where the duo join on a darker chorus of “I am the witch of the water/I come like a thief in the night,” for one of this disc’s tougher, less delicate moments.
The most obvious pop track is “Hand Over My Heart” which sounds like it might have emerged from the Laurel Canyon craze during that region’s easy flowing, radio ready 70s heyday. The production and smooth groove injects a stirring Mamas & Papas feel into the squiggly synths and the duo’s adorable humming. Even the somewhat overly sentimental love song “Hold You Dear” succeeds because of the honesty and integrity of the performance, along with a perfectly placed string quartet that appears out of nowhere.
While some may complain about the ballad vibe that envelopes most of these ten tunes, there’s no doubt that The Secret Sisters, and their famed production and musical support team, have tapped into a well, secret sauce that makes this beautifully conceived, often introspective but never insular rootsy folk and pop so unique and immediately likeable.