Music: Secret Sisters

Nov 10, 2010 3:46 PM, By Blair Jackson

DUO UPDATES CLASSIC COUNTRY AND POP SOUNDS

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The Secret Sisters are real-life sisters 
Laura (left) and Lydia Rogers.

The Secret Sisters are real-life sisters Laura (left) and Lydia Rogers.

Considering the music industry buzz surrounding the impressive debut album by the neo-traditional country duo the Secret Sisters, it’s remarkable to think that a year ago the act didn’t exist and that real-life sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers hadn’t been knockin’ ’em dead at talent shows or coffee houses in their hometown of Muscle Shoals, Ala., the past several years. They’re that polished, that charismatic.

Indeed, as their producer Dave Cobb recalls of their origins, “We discovered them at an open-call audition in Nashville in October [2009]. One sister—Laura—got up and sang, and it was just the most magical thing: She sounded like Snow White or something; I’d never heard anything like it. It seemed very different but also sort of timeless. And she said, ‘My sister is coming in a couple of hours and you should check her out, too.’ So we paid attention to her, and she was great, too, and then they sang together and they were so good. But they’d never officially been a band or a group or anything and had never performed live. They didn’t consider themselves professional singers.”

Laura and Lydia Rogers, both in their early 20s, are from a musical family and had been singing for years informally in church and around the house, but as Laura Rogers says by phone from San Francisco where she was about to perform with her sister and T Bone Burnett’s band at the famed Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, “Up until the point we were ‘discovered,’ nobody had a clue that we were singers. I have friends from high school who message me on the Internet, and say, ‘I didn’t even know you could sing! You just played the Ryman, you recorded with Jack White, you made a record.’” She laughs at the seeming absurdity of the Secret Sisters’ truly meteoric rise.

“It’s been a crazy year,” she continues. “Obviously, we never expected this. It’s almost like we get these Christmas presents every few months: ‘Oh, guess what, you’re going to be doing a taping [for an upcoming TV special] with Jakob Dylan and Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett’s going to be there. And then you get to play in San Francisco for the bluegrass festival.’ It’s pretty humbling and very moving for us emotionally to know that these big names are inspired enough by two little girls from Alabama who nobody has ever heard of before, to want to be part of what we’re doing.”

For Cobb, after the Nashville audition had knocked him out, “We had to figure out what to do with them because it was so out of left field—it’s certainly not your Lady Gaga or Katy Perry. What do you do with this? So my manager—Andrew Brightman—and I flew them out to L.A. and cut a couple of songs with them at my studio [known as 1974, after the year Cobb was born] and they were signed within a week. They had a couple of songs that they knew and we did an experiment with the recording and really had a good time trying to do something different. I love old records—I’m a huge fan of RCA Studio B [Nashville] recordings of the ’50s and ’60s, and also the whole Wrecking Crew era in L.A., and that’s what we tried to do with it [sonically]. I thought it would be cool to bring back a little bit of Skeeter Davis and a little bit of Patsy Cline, a little bit of George Jones and kind of blend it all together. Country, but also pop. So we had some A-list guys here in L.A. come down—some friends of mine—and we did it really quick. We did the demos with this engineer named Greg Koller, and he had access to all sorts of original Universal Audio 610s and Fairchilds and [RCA] BA6A compressors, and we really tried to pick period-appropriate gear.” Though none of those tracks made the eventual album, it set the tone for the duo’s aesthetic—retro but with a modern twist.






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