Thankfully for us, it’s only been 3 years since Laura and Lydia Rogers released their last album and not the 29 ½ years it takes Saturn to orbit the sun. Just like the astrological event it’s named after, ‘Saturn Return’ focuses on the fear you have to overcome and the subsequent strength and wisdom you gain from facing life’s challenges and as many will know, the sisters from Muscle Shoals, Alabama have had to face more than their fair share of life’s obstacles over the last few years.
Those challenges seem to be behind them now and with Brandi Carlile once again co-producing, alongside her bandmates the Hanseroth twins, Tim and Phil, they have crafted an album that showcases their both delightful individual singing as well as their simply wonderful harmonies. Recorded at Carlile’s home studio in Washington state, the album includes ten songs written by the siblings and for the first time features the girls singing individually. This was something Carlile challenged them to do and she commented, “It’s really uniquely unified and harmonious when they’re in tandem and very tumultuous and deep when they’re not in tandem and I think for a brief, beautiful moment on this album we caught The Secret Sisters not in tandem for the first time. To be a harbinger for their honesty in these songs and to watch them work together to see the tension was one of the greatest gifts of my career because those are two very powerful people in a very interesting point in their lives.”
Given Brandi Carlile’s pedigree, that’s quite a lot to live up to and unlike the PR hype that accompanies some releases, in this case, it’s totally justified. There’s a musical maturity about this album and The Secret Sisters have to be congratulated for pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone. Certainly, there are more than echoes back to their southern harmony roots and tracks like ‘Tin Can Angel’ highlights the new found solo singing confidence which comes together in with astonishing beauty when they combine in beautiful sibling harmony in the choruses. There is also a more commercial, almost pop-like feel, to ‘Hand Over My Heart’ which you might expect would feel out of place on this otherwise mostly soulful country/folk but the singing is so good it just works.
This is an album that deserves to be listened to and absorbed into your soul; it’s packed with clever (but never impenetrable) lyrics that display a remarkable tenderness and yet are never afraid to discuss the darker thoughts that inhabit both the conscious and subconscious mind. The sisters appear to have poured their heart and soul into the 10 songs on this great album and there is a wonderful openness and an abundant dignity on display throughout the musical delight that is ‘Saturn Return’.