The Secret Sisters rocktheir musical history
The Secret SistersPut Your Needle Down (Universal Republic)
Back in 1980 it felt like I was the only one who liked Michael Cimino's epic box- office disaster Heaven's Gate.
I was especially tickled by the band in the movie, with composer David Mansfield playing fiddle while on roller skates. T-Bone Burnett, who'd been in Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue band with Mansfield, helped create an authentic-sounding cowboy outfit for Cimino's project.
A performer and producer, Burnett's most notable film venture has probably been the soundtrack he produced and wrote for the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou?
As a producer, he's left his fingerprints on notable albums by Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, Los Lobos, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss among many others.
Burnett's deft touches elevate the down-home gumbo of the Secret Sisters' new repertoire to a level of sophistication that's sure to confirm their reputation as a contemporary female equivalent of the Everly Brothers.
From Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Laura and Lydia Rogers released their debut album, The Secret Sisters, four years ago. Recorded on vintage studio equipment, it featured ballads and cover versions with just two original compositions.
It got the news of their talent out there and resulted in lots of touring, a PBS special with Elvis Costello and a composition on the soundtrack of The Hunger Games. Their follow-up was going to be different.
The album title comes from their motorvatin' interpretation of PJ Harvey's The Pocket Knife. Burnett surrounds their delicious harmonies with voodoo percussion, ghostly fiddles and eerie slide guitars. It's a potent brew.
The sisters' own writing is of a high standard with Luka, a slick murder ballad combining folksy singalong with spooky storytelling.
Burnett had Bob Dylan contribute an unfinished song which, when the Secrets completed it, met with his approval. Dirty Lie has a smoky 40s lounge band feel. Written with Brandi Carlile, Black and Blue has a Merseybeat feel.
Their re-make of the Every Brothers' Lonely Island highlights their pristine pitching. Burnett adds a driving beat to River Jordan, the sisters' stab at a revival meeting old-timey spiritual.
They're sassy too. "I know it's not a perfect world but tonight I'm the perfect girl," they croon on the choogling Good Luck Good Night Goodbye. "Go home. Don't waste your time."
Making yesterday's influences sound fresh today, they're both reliable and fun. HHHII