Listening to a few of their tracks on Myspace I was a little worried I was about to trek out in the freezing rain, only to listen to yet another cheap throwback. I’m prepared to admit that I was wrong. The Secret Sisters may hark back to a bygone era of pearls and pin curls, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re just a covers band. They’re never going to be the most exciting musical duo to hit the airwaves, but these girls are at least the real deal in terms of pure country music. With the backing of the legendry T-Bone Burnett, whose production credits include Natalie Merchant and KD Lang, there’s also a real chance they might actually be sticking around.
Though plucked from relative obscurity, I wouldn’t have believed it based on tonight’s performance. Opening a diverse support set for Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs, The One I Love Is Gone introduces vocal harmonies of the highest quality. For a duo building their career largely on covers, the strength of their vocal arrangements gives them a much needed edge in terms of originality and gives them the clout they need. They could easily have slipped into the realms of mundane and irrelevant, but don’t.
Whilst their low key acoustic sounds are, recorded at least, so laid back that they’re practically horizontal, live they come to life and as Ray’s band join them mid set it’s clear they’re as comfortable accompanied as not. Their cover of Johnny Cash’s Big River, which was recorded last year with Jack White, is lapped up by the audience and by the time the Pariah Dogs go off stage there are calls for more. Slipping in an Everly Brothers cover and finishing with the gospel number House Of Gold they jam pack the set with an array of styles, only to return and accompany Ray for a further four songs before the night is out.
Returning to the UK for a headline tour before the summer, it remains to see whether we’ll still be remembering them in a few months time. For now at least, the audience are impressed enough to swarm for signed albums in the foyer at the end of the show.