Music Reviews
3:23 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Harmony-Loving Sisters Keep It Retro

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 11:05 am

Porcelain complected, red-lipsticked, blue-eyed and raven-haired, The Secret Sisters' look seems cultivated to match the duo's sound. Real-life sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers are as flawlessly retro as Mad Men and as lively and bold as Bettie Page, and their voices ring in impeccable harmonies that soar straight into The Everly Brothers' territory.

The two have already attracted the attention of Jack White, who put out one of their singles on his own record label. They've also found a perfect partner in producer T-Bone Burnett, whose distinct sonic stamp frames the songs of their new album, Put Your Needle Down, in a timeless fashion.

The sisters' debut album was heavily influenced by classic country singers. They absorbed their strum-and-twang sensibilities while growing up in a musically inclined family from a region rich in American music history, Muscle Shoals, Ala. Their new album is a leap forward, showing artistic growth and sophistication. You can hear it in the jazz-inflected sound of "Dirty Lie," a demo that Bob Dylan started writing in the 1980s, but never finished. It's the only song in their repertoire that they don't sing harmonies on, but by adding more lyrics and styling it up, they make it their own.

Even in their lyrics, the sisters have mastered the art of looking backward and forward at the same time. Their love songs often explore the power struggle in romantic relationships. Sometimes they keep the upper hand, sometimes they don't. But from their lips, even forlorn acquiescence sounds more like ruminating in a Hawaiian paradise than a bad breakup.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The two singers who perform as the Secret Sisters happened to be sisters in real life. Lydia and Laura Rogers have just released their second album, "Put Your Needle Down."

Reviewer Meredith Ochs is dazzled by their timeless sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

SECRET SISTERS: (Singing) Please don't say goodbye. Give me another try. I'm black and blue worrying over you...

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: The Secret Sisters are lovely. Porcelain-complected, red lip-sticked, blue-eyed and raven haired, their look seems cultivated to match their sound, as flawlessly retro as "Mad Men," as stunning and sassy as Bettie Page. Their voices ring in impeccable harmonies that soar straight into Everly Brothers' territory. And they've found a perfect partner in famed producer T. Bone Burnett, whose distinct sonic stamp frames their songs in a timeless fashion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CANNOT FIND ANOTHER WAY")

SISTERS: (Singing) I cannot find a way to say goodbye...

OCHS: The Secret Sisters' debut album was heavily influenced by classic country singers, having absorbed strum-and-twang while growing up in a musically inclined Southern family. This new album is a leap forward, showing artistic growth and sophistication. You can hear it in the jazz-inflected sound of this song, a demo that Bob Dylan started writing in the 1980s, but never finished.

It's the only song in their repertoire that they don't sing harmonies on, but by adding more lyrics and styling it up, they make it their own.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Let's (unintelligible) be alone when the sun goes down, (unintelligible) I never loved you, baby, my, oh, my, and whosoever told you, told a dirty lie.

OCHS: Even in their lyrics, the Secret Sisters have mastered the art of looking backward and forward at the same time. Their love songs often explore the power struggle in romantic relationships. Sometimes they keep the upper hand, sometimes they don't. But from their lips, even forlorn acquiescence sounds more like ruminating in a Hawaiian paradise than a bad breakup.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SISTERS: (Singing) I'm dreaming on lonely island in a loveless ocean full of misery. I'll die here on my lonely own, unless you give your sweet love back to me.

OCHS: The magic of this new Secret Sisters album is that it transports you to another place and another time. And the music is so gorgeous that it doesn't really matter where or when.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SISTERS: (Singing) Oh, yes, (unintelligible) oh, yeah. You're making me weak. (Unintelligible) and I can't sleep. When are you going to be the death of me?

SIEGEL: The new album from the Secret Sisters is "Put Your Needle Down." Reviewer Meredith Ochs is a talk show host and DJ at Sirius XM Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.