The Secret Sisters and Striking Matches (both produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett) scorched Annapolis, MD’s Rams Head On Stage on Friday May 29th to a nearly full house of fans awaiting to see two of the hottest new acts in country music.
Muscle Shoals’ own The Secret Sisters opened the show with a set of songs that proudly displayed their roots and influences, mainly, The Everly Brothers, who they stunningly covered a few times throughout their hour-long set.
Without a backing band behind them (they played here months ago with a full band), brought even more intimacy to an already cozy setting. Younger sister Lydia Rogers strummed an acoustic guitar on most of the songs while trading vocals, hilarious eye rolls, and barbs with older sister Laura Rogers, who took the lead vocals in the majority of the songs performed. What makes The Secret Sisters so vital to see live though is their amazingly gorgeous harmonies.
They opened the night with The Everly Brothers’ “On the Wings of a Nightingale,” into the jaunty chorused “I Cannot Find A Way” off of their 2014 album Put Your Needle Down (which just happened to make my Top 7 Yallternative Albums of 2014).
Throughout the night the sisters jokingly apologized for the sheer volume of sad songs in their set, but that’s what they do best. “The One I Love is Gone” (written by Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe) which appeared on their self-titled debut was one such tearjerker.
The Gospel-influenced “River Jordan” was followed by two more Every Brothers songs, “Brand New Heartache” and “Lonely Island” which appears on their latest album. Calling it their “angry song,” the sisters then played the caustic “If I don’t” into covers of Eddie Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away” and Pete Seeger’s timeless “Where Have All The Flowers Gone.”
Lydia took the lead vocals on the smoky “Bad Habit” which had the perfect ratio of yearning and burning.
Before ending their hour-long set, Laura explained that they “like to sing songs that emote a memory” and for them it was Levon Helm’s “Heaven’s Pearls” which was a fantastic ending to a beautiful and sad performance.
Up and coming Nashville duo Striking Matches (who have had a number of their songs performed by Scarlett and Gunnar on the TV show Nashville) then hit the stage with guitars a blazing as Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis wowed the Annapolis crowd with their guitar heroics and often fiery songs that trade off vocal leads.
They set the tone right with “Trouble is as Trouble Does” the first track off their recently released debut album Nothing but the Silence. After trading their acoustic guitars for electric guitars Striking Matches and their backing band (which consisted of a drummer and bass player) performed “Missing You Tonight” and “Miss Me More” the latter of which Zimmerman played a mean electric Fender mandolin.
Before a short acoustic duo set, Striking Matches played their album’s first single “Hanging on a Lie” and “Never Gonna Love Again” which featured a thrilling rock jam at the end.
The duo’s acoustic set began with “He Only Loves Me When It’s Raining” and “When the Right One Comes Around” which they explained that much like Gunnar and Scarlett, they too played it for the first time ever at the Bluebird Cafe. Zimmerman’s voice sounded particularly sweet on the latter.
The backing band rejoined the stage for the hypnotic “Nothing but the Silence” and an epic version of the legendary Robert Johnson blues song (made famous by Eric Clapton and Cream) “Crossroads” which Zimmerman preceded by saying “We’re gonna go crazy with some guitars now.” As if they didn’t all night.
Striking Matches then closed the dazzling night with “Make a Liar Out of Me” and encored with the Elvis Presley classic “Can’t Help Falling in Love” a sentiment that many a new and old fans experienced after a wonderful night of country music.