There is a fine line between reverence and authenticity and it is a distinction that The Secret Sisters don’t seem to have the fullest grasp of on their self-titled debut album. This record does its damndest to capture the gaiety and innocence of the Fifties, with little attempt to practice this mantra through a lens of the Alabama siblings’ own creation.
Instead, The Secret Sisters operates as an almost endless parade of covers by better known artists with whom Laura and Lydia Rogers presumably share some kindred preference for country music, Christian values and demure, floral-patterned attire. Eight out of the ten tracks that make up this LP have been authored by artists who enjoyed their creative peaks long before The Secret Sisters’ formation. Furthermore, those who don’t think ‘Something Stupid’ wasn’t nailed on its best known replication by Frank and Nancy Sinatra in 1967 probably had that particular dilemma catered to by Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman.
Far too much of the promotional effort surrounding this album has been engineered towards highlighting The Secret Sisters’ 'love and respect for music and harmony' which saw the pair lay down their debut in the moist genuine manner possible. For all the considerable effort expended on this LP’s recording process, from the strict use of vintage gear to the signing of T Bone Burnett as an Executive Producer, it seems incredible that no-one saw sense enough to highlight the dangers of playing so dangerously straight-laced. That the two original Laura Rogers compositions ‘Tennessee Me’ and ‘Waste The Day’ easily stand amongst the album’s highlights only enhance this air of wasted opportunity.
Both lilting, mournful affairs with twee unrequited lyrics, “I don’t know how to love you like you want me to”, they retain the air of charm and good grace The Secret Sisters so desperately seek to capture without using the exact vocabulary of the canon they lust to sit amongst. That’s not to say that when this delightfully harmonious duo do turn their talents to the songs of others they don’t succeed in creating a set of accurate replications.
‘Why Baby Why’ retains George Jones’ original folksy swing, ‘My Heart Skips A Beat’ is just as winsome as when Buck Owens’ first sung it and Hank Williams’ ‘House Of Gold’ is even slowed in tempo to strike a more sombre note.
As accomplished as they may be however, none of these interpretations are daring enough to depart too far from the hallowed territory of what made them much loved in the first place.
Considering the booming Jack White-assisted treatment the pair gave to Johnny Cash’s ‘Big River’ for Third Man Records' Blue Series late last year, such a rigid dictum seems entirely unnecessary at the best, woefully lazy at the worst.
Undoubtedly there is a market for The Secret Sisters in their safest incarnation and it is highly likely that this angelic-voiced pairing could forge an entire career in the footsteps of their favourite country and western icons. Whether doing so would be authenticity of the highest audience order or unrequited reverence will likely be decided by how many people buy into this debut album.
5Robert Leedham's Score