The Secret Sisters: You Don't Own Me Anymore (4 stars)

The Secret Sisters: You Don't Own Me Anymore

Sweetly defiant third album from sister duo Laura and Lydia Rogers

There's no shortage of sister harmony outfits in roots music, with the Pierces, the Staves, and Joseph all charming audiences in the past few years. But the discovery of the Secret Sisters at an open audition in Nashville rings like a story from a bygone age. When they first emerged to instant recognition in 2009, Laura and Lydia Rogers were a candy-striped retro dream and a bluegrass Beverley Sisters. Sumptuous singers in their own right, this ravishing double act put a female harmony spin on an old-time folk and country repertoire.

But that story includes hard times, menial jobs and legal tussles once they were dropped by their label, mercifully followed by a lifeline in the form of fellow country roots lover Brandi Carlile, who swooped in to produce this delicious and sweetly defiant third album. The Secret Sisters have responded to their travails with a lightness of touch, sidestepping the temptation to embrace a brash modern pop style purely for greater commercial returns.

They showcase their heavenly harmonies from the off on the mournful intro to 'Tennessee River Runs Low' before the song perks up to a cutesy jaunt with Lydia's soprano ringing as clear as mountain air. They flirt briefly with a more contemporary country sound while sticking with the rivers on the moody 'Mississippi' but the spirit of Kitty Wells pervades 'King Cotton', a honky-tonk hymn to their home state of Alabama.

Their skills as singers are best served when they can inject some doe-eyed blues into their music: the bittersweet ballad 'Carry Me' and lullaby lament 'To All the Girls Who Cry' are exquisitely sad. And even 'Little Again', for all its breezy whistling coda, carries a certain nostalgic weight in its desire to return to simpler days, while the haunting country gospel of 'Flee as a Bird' ensures this album ends in the arms of angels.

Out Fri 9 Jun (New West Records).

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