Something old, something new.
Though the Secret Sisters have landed songs on country radio since 2010, they've flown under the radar for most of their lives. But now they're flirting with a more mainstream route to fame. The sibling duo's sophomore album, Put Your Needle Down, topped the Billboard Heatseekers chart earlier this year, and they'll headline a show at the Majestic Theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 3.
Discovered in Nashville but based in Muscle Shoals, Ala., sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers have released two full-length albums, both produced by T Bone Burnett. They also recorded a 7-inch at Jack White's Third Man Studio; he played guitar on both tracks. Then their song "Tomorrow Will Be Kinder" graced the soundtrack to The Hunger Games in 2012. Hello, mainstream visibility.
While obligatory country tearjerkers stock the sisters' repertoire, they like to alternate traditional country numbers with upbeat and danceable ditties in short bursts. Sporting lady pompadours and old-fashioned microphones, they played "Iuka," a murder ballad about a young couple's plot to elope in a nearby Mississippi town, on a recent episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The narrator seeks not just a husband, but an escape hatch from her tyrannical father. The tale's eerie imagery and melody reach a fever pitch when impassioned vocals meet a shrieking fiddle.
Needle is a nod to the resurgence of vinyl. After all, its something-old-meets-something-new feel seems like a good fit for a vintage record. The Secret Sisters' Southern country contains elements of blues, gospel, bluegrass and folk. Layers of fiddle, lap steel and walking bass melt into a twangy background for the siblings' velvety voices. Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn come to mind.
But Needle's more modern sounds show off the sisters' versatility. There's an impressive cover of PJ Harvey's "The Pocket Knife." Opening track "Rattle My Bones" has heavy tambourine and the tempo of a Go-Go's song. Laced with hints of early rockabilly, this song of anxious infatuation captures the ardor of new love while highlighting the duo's wide vocal range. Featuring handclaps and a bouncy plea for a lover to stay, "Black and Blue" leans toward the style of a 1960s girl group. Burnett's analog recording style crisply re-creates the feel of a bygone era, and some songs take a dip in the reverb-drenched surf sound used by bands like Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls.
Whether they continue to travel a traditional country route or dive deeper into the pop world, the Secret Sisters shouldn't be hush-hush for much longer.