Three albums into their career, the evolution of The Secret Sisters provide a thoroughly enjoyable experience for the listener. The beauty of their harmonies was evident from the first note, but their songwriting has progressed to the point that it deserves equal attention. "You Don't Own Me Anymore" is a high point for both their singing and writing abilities, mixing classic country music with modern Americana with a heavy dose of Faulkner-esque Southern Gothic atmosphere.
Laura and Lydia Rogers wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs. Some were written with producers Brandi Carlisle and twins Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth, who in Carlile's band, but even with five writers on a single song, the vibe of the album belongs solely to The Secret Sisters.
"Tennessee River Runs Low" somehow sounds like it was written either this year or back in the Tin Pan Alley era, and it sums up their sound perfectly. The Rogers sisters take about 60 years of Southern music and mash it all together, with their harmonies being the unifying element. Blues, soul, gospel, country and folk all intermingle, sometimes within the space of a song.
While a few songs directly reference the South ("King Cotton" is a high point), the Rogers sisters tackle a broader range of topics. "He's Fine" and the title track both take on recovery from failed relationships, the former with a contemporary folky feel and the latter with a soulful edge that the sisters haven't previously displayed. The arrangements of each song are nicely suited to complement the vocals, with few solos and sparse percussion. The Rogers sisters' delivery is consistently on point; even on "The Damage," they sound so lovely that it takes a moment to register that the song is a bitter takedown of an ex.
Though the Secret Sisters were initially introduced to the music world as a pair of gifted singers who wrote a couple songs on their debut, the balance has shifted. Now, they are a pair of formidable songwriters who happen to have flawless vocals. The fact that they have come into their own as artists ought to make the Americana world sit up and take notice.