The Secret Sisters' Harmonies Made Dallas' Kessler Theater Glow | Dallas Observer

The Secret Sisters' Sparkling Sibling Harmonies Made the Kessler Theater Glow

Unshakable love for one another and incandescent talents give spectacular lift to their Americana-tinged music.
Lydia Rogers Slagle (left) and Laura Rogers are the Secret Sisters, a duo whose harmonies are otherworldly, as heard Saturday night at the Kessler Theater.
Lydia Rogers Slagle (left) and Laura Rogers are the Secret Sisters, a duo whose harmonies are otherworldly, as heard Saturday night at the Kessler Theater. Preston Jones
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Anyone who has ever been a sister or a brother understood exactly what was happening on stage Saturday night at the Kessler Theater.

“She sleeps with her mouth open,” Laura Rogers said of her sister Lydia as the capacity crowd began laughing, and Laura wondered aloud about possibly inserting a dead alligator. (My apologies, but establishing the context for what she meant, and precisely why it was so amusing, would take another five paragraphs).

“Good luck with your solo career,” Lydia Slagle (nee Rogers) shot right back, escalating the raucous response from the audience.

Moments later, the pair was singing the sweet folk shuffle “Planted,” from their fifth and latest studio album, Mind, Man, Medicine, and the tightly braided blood harmonies were breathtaking — a moment of vocal unity as distinct and vivid as the squabbling had been seconds before.

The unshakable love for one another underneath it all is, along with the Muscle Shoals natives’ incandescent talents, are what give spectacular lift to the Americana-tinged music the Secret Sisters create together.

For 90 minutes, the Rogers sisters held court, standing on stage with nothing more than a pair of microphones and Lydia’s acoustic guitar. (The subtle sibling jockeying even extended to their attire: Lydia was clad in black from head-to-toe, while Laura was dressed all in white.)

Saturday’s performance marked the duo’s swift return to North Texas — they appeared in Fort Worth in May 2023 at, of all places, the Ostreum, which mostly serves as a wedding venue. (It’s been said before, but it always bears repeating: The Kessler is the best spot in town for this sort of showcase, and there is no close second.)

The full house was rapt throughout, roaring with laughter, hollering its approval and engaging in the sort of spirited back-and-forth with the Secret Sisters such cozy environs make possible.

Indeed, Laura — the elder and more loquacious of the pair — waxed ecstatic about their detour, earlier in the day, for sweet treats at the Czech Stop, the proliferation of Texas bluebonnets and the impending solar eclipse, among many other verbal tangents.

The digressive quality of the between-song banter only amplified the evening’s intimacy — it was as if the sisters were headlining at an especially large family gathering, rather than a venue teeming with ticket-holding members of the public.

This sensation was reinforced when, spontaneously, the room sang “Happy Birthday” to Laura, who turned 38 on April 5, after she relayed a story about the prior evening’s audience in Austin trying to sing the song as Lydia had spent considerable time tuning her guitar, but mush-mouthing Laura’s name due to uncertainty.

Disarming the crowd with breezy anecdotes and bonding moments also helped the often-grim material go over a little easier.

The Secret Sisters has endured no small portion of the music industry’s worst elements during its 15-year existence, and even apart from the professional turmoil — some of Laura’s more acidic asides about “radio singles” Saturday suggested the scars inflicted aren’t healing quickly — there are songs like “Cabin” and “Same Water” that land their punches when you aren’t looking: “I start on the ceiling, end on the ground/There’s no in-between/At least that I’ve found,” goes a line from “Water.” Sonically, it’s gorgeous; lyrically, it’s devastating.

Saturday’s set list pulled most heavily from the new record, which was co-produced by the sisters, Ben Tanner and John Paul White.

The album’s lead single, “All the Ways,” features guest vocals from long-time champion and friend Ray LaMontagne (who, as Laura noted, was not in attendance Saturday, before pivoting to describe his voice as being similar to a Czech Stop pecan pastry), but sounded no less exquisite with Laura handling his verse.

An artist who was on hand was singer-songwriter Caleb Elliott, a compatriot from the Muscle Shoals music scene, whose cello contributions to the murder ballad “Mississippi” and the main set-closing “I Can Never Be Without You Anymore” were icing on an already immensely satisfying cake. (Elliott pulled double duty Saturday, delivering a laid-back, often luminous opening set that left you wanting more.)

Prior to the night’s final song, “I’ve Got Your Back,” Laura said, earnestly, “The music industry can be a nightmare.”

She concluded by fervently thanking those in attendance for their unyielding support and encouragement, as though each person inside the Kessler Theater was an ally in the long, grinding battle for genuinely great music to be heard and valued and cherished by as broad a swath of the population as possible.

Much like the eternal bickering of siblings, such a struggle is no less worthy, and is as fueled by love.

Sometimes, you have to really fight for what you cherish most — the Secret Sisters know that, and live it, in body and song, better than just about anyone.
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