I was browsing the CD selection at my favorite thrift store when I accidentally discovered a new favorite group. It was one of those “inspired by” albums that had caught my eye. You know the type—compilations of songs inspired by a particular movie, show, etc. This one was The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond. I’m not even a Hunger Games fan, but I already loved one song on the track-list, so I tried the rest of them out. I wanted to taste a little more of that dystopian folk feeling I’d sampled before, so, I figured, why not?
Musical duo The Secret Sisters contributed “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” to the album. The first time I heard it, I knew I’d love it for a long time. It’s exactly my kind of song: simple, lilting, slightly melancholic, and textured. Inspired by this new find, I explored the team’s YouTube channel in search of more tunes. The Secret Sisters, I learned, really are sisters. They perform a unique type of music that seems inspired in equal measure by a variety of genres: Folk. Country. 1940s/50s dance. Bluegrass. Hymns. Whatever its exact specification, I love it, because it never stays the same thing for too long. All their music sounds cohesive, but there is variety too.
Many of their songs are fairly dark: several deal with severe familial dysfunction, buried crimes, and, as one might expect, heartbreak. In certain offerings, such as “Iuka” and “Mississippi,” there’s a distinct Bonnie and Clyde aesthetic going on. Others, like “Carry Me” and the aforementioned “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” are gentle, soothing, urgent reminders of hope. In the romantic department, the Sisters jump from the sassy self-actualization of “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “You Don’t Own Me Anymore” to the wistful long-suffering of “Something Stupid” and “To All the Girls Who Cry.”
Whatever the range of topics they explore, the duo usually lets faith and heritage under-gird each record, typically in brief and unobtrusive ways. Several of their albums end on traditionally religious notes, with ballads like “House of Gold” and “Flee as a Bird.” And occasionally they’ll break from the somewhat heavy themes that characterize most of their music, as with the nostalgic and unabashed celebrations of their Southern upbringing found in “Little Again” and “King Cotton.”
From a technical standpoint, the women’s vocals are excellent. Their harmonies are elegant and spot-on; and, though their voices are distinct, it’s equally pleasurable to hear either of them sing individually. Neither appears to be the stronger musician, and it’s refreshing to see a duo that shares the balance of vocal power, playing to each other’s strengths.
I love The Secret Sisters. I love the sound of their music; I love its steeped-in-Americana soul. I love the authenticity, timeliness, and circumspection that the lyrics convey. They came to me at the right time and I’m grateful for it. If you’re ever in need of fresh music that will unsettle even as it calms you, I highly recommend them.