Album Review: The Secret Sisters – Saturn Return

Last year I was lucky enough to see the Secret Sisters open the Sunday of High Water Festival in Charleston. The sisters were both pregnant and in high spirits, entertaining the crowd with their stories and reducing us all to tears with the beauty of their music.

They previewed some songs from this new album at that show, so I have been eagerly waiting ever since to hear these recorded versions and thankfully they do not disappoint. The sisters have again worked with producer Brandi Carlile, after their previous collaboration on You Don’t Own Me Anymore. Every song on this album was written by the sisters, a deeply personal project with the title representing the significant change occurring in both their lives.

In astrology Saturn Return is when the planet returns to the place in orbit it was when you were first born, signalling a rebirth and beginning a new phase of your life. For the sisters this was a moment in time where their own impending motherhood gave them a chance to reflect on their relationships with their own family matriarchs.

From the beginning song Silver there is a quiet intensity to the music, a seriousness that tells you these songs have come from places of deep reflection. As they see the silver hair on their mother’s head it reminds them of her power, her struggle, her glory. To age is to live. Soon they see one in their own hair – rather than fear it they celebrate the ‘mark of wisdom’ it brings.

On Late Bloomer waiting on an overdue, longed for baby to arrive becomes a moment of contemplation of life’s milestones and how nature finds its way. It doesn’t matter when you bloom / it matters that you do. Take your time, find your own path, trust in the seasons.

The personal becomes political on Cabin, written in the wake of the recent abuse scandals women have faced. The claustrophobia of the music and the darkness in the vocal delivery creates a sense of frustrated hopelessness, something I’m sure every women has experienced these last few years. The only answer they have is anger and a wish to burn this cabin down. As women we light the match together.

The sisters transform their secret, internal struggles into Nowhere Baby. Despite everything there is a nagging voice in their head which undermines their achievements. To rise above it, to silence the doubt they take an honest look at their career. It’s not glamour/ it’s not fortune they admit but yet they ‘will finish what they started’. Such is the life of touring musicians, ones us fans are grateful for every single day.

The songs which encapsulate the gentle power of this record for me are Hold You Dear, Hand Over My Heart and Healer in the Sky. Precious and vulnerable moments of love are offered to the listener, honouring their late grandmothers, parents and the relationships which have led them to their own new found role as mothers. To find the answer to life’s big questions, sometimes you have to look within. Making art from that personal journey helps us all to navigate onwards.

Saturn Return is a gift from their own broken and healed lives to our own. Listen and let it bloom.

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