Band of the Week: New Traditionalists, the Secret Sisters
WHO: Sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers learned to harmonize attending church in their hometown of Muscle Shoals, Alabama — a small city with a big musical legacy. An audition with Universal Music got their demo in the hands of key Americana producer T-Bone Burnett, who promptly made the Sisters the debut release on his own label, Beladroit.
SOUNDS LIKE: A trip back in time. The Sisters recorded their self-titled, well-curated collection of standards (like the breezy “Somethin’ Stupid”), traditionals (the hauntingly somber Irish folk tune “Do You Love an Apple”) and anachronistic originals (the chastely yearning “Tennessee Me”) on analog equipment at Nashville’s legendary Blackbird Studios. But their debut isn’t a simple exercise in nostalgia: Laura and Lydia have bright, sassy voices that make songs a half-century old sound as modern as the iPod on which you’re playing them.
Rolling Stone Live: The Secret Sisters
SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: The Secret Sisters’ old-timey look mirrors their sound. “Our mindset is very traditional,” Laura Rogers says. “Where we’re from is a small town in the middle of the Bible Belt. There’s a focus on family and faith and, really, we’re just regular boring country people.” As if to prove it, she adds that she and her sister spent a recent week off in New York City doing some of the most un-rock- and-roll things possible, including browsing the knock-off street vendors downtown and buying “postcards and little statues” for friends back home.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: While the Sisters are modest, the company they keep certainly isn’t. In addition to Burnett, Jack White was an early fan, collaborating with the Sisters on a rollicking, non-album cover of Johnny Cash’s “Big River” (says Laura: “We had to prepare our minds so we wouldn’t throw up on his shoes”) and recent shows have seen them collaborating with luminaries like Elton John (who sang Hank Williams songs with them backstage) and Elvis Costello. “To have these opportunities — we’re cutting our teeth with some of the biggest names in history! — is really humbling,” Laura says. “Elvis especially is such a remarkable person. He’s just in it for the music. After our show in Boston he came back to the hotel with us at midnight and we just sat in the lobby singing old American songs.”
THE SECRET SISTERS’ SECRET: They may seem retro, but the Secret Sisters insist that they’re up for anything. “A good song is a good song no matter when it was written, be it 1920 or 2010,” Laura says, adding that they perform a “pretty rockin'” rendition of WHAM!’s “Careless Whisper.” She continues: “But we try and stay away from characterizing ourselves in any one time period because we don’t want to be limited. If we wanted to make a record that sounds like Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga, we could do that. Or even full-on Eighties hair metal. We could totally do that!” In other words, just because their harmonies are otherworldly doesn’t mean the Rogers don’t live in this one. “Sometimes, when I’m walking around with my dress on and my hair all curled, I feel bad getting my cell phone out,” Laura admits. “People will think I’m such a phony!”