Perhaps it should be made clear from the start, The Secret Sisters are good, both vocally and musically. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say their downfall is what comes between songs, or at least Laura’s is. When they’re singing their mix of traditional country numbers, inspired predominantly by the stars of the 50’s and 60’s, they bring with them breathtaking harmonies and a paradoxical joy to songs which are often littered with depression. Still, when Laura chimes early on ‘we’re not that garbage on the radio coming out of Nashville’ I can’t help but feel it’s an ill-fated statement.
Whether it is garbage is irrelevant, but the statement smacks of egotism and when she later precedes Tennessee Me by saying ‘we hope you like it, because we don’t’ I begin to wonder why they’ve put it in the set. Or indeed if they’re listening to the same thing, since from where I’m sat, it seems like a solid number which has begun to build their credibility as something other than cover artists. Perhaps all of this, is as a result of their record companies desire to push them up and into the musical world quickly.
It seems with time and space to write their own songs, they’re able to create some dazzling numbers. Tomorrow Will Be Kinder pays tribute to the wind which ripped through the Southern States and showcases Lydia’s voice, whilst King Cotton gives a nod to the place they call home. Meanwhile, Little Again carefully captures a desire to remain a child, and results in a spine chilling number which has all the elements of a hit and I’m incredibly thankful that there’s no precursor to their strongest song of the night, River Jordan, which brings them back to their religious roots.
Elsewhere their covers are plentiful, Skeeter Davis’ Am I That Easy To Forget? , Etta James’ All I Could Was Cry and George Jones’ Why Baby Why all ringing through the chapel, and for a while, my concerns about attitude from the start of the night dissipate. Gospel number In The Sweet By And By shows the duo at their best, their voices bouncing off and intertwining with such ease that at time you can’t distinguish which sister is singing what.
‘We kind of believe you have to be related to sing good harmonies, we’re music snobs’ quips Laura before a cover of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Hopelessly Hoping and based on their performance tonight this may well be true. Sadly it also leaves me puzzled about their decision to bring their idol Brandi Carlile on stage for an outstanding a capella version of Amazing Grace. Somehow the statement and the act contradict each other, and I’m left thinking that a bit of ‘shut up and sing’ advice, might not go amiss even for those firmly grounded in traditional country.