Published Mar 02, 2020Astrologically speaking, a person will experience their "Saturn return" twice or more in a lifetime. Beginning around 27 years after birth and lasting into their early 30s, this phase marks an individual's transition from youth to adulthood. Entering their spiritual maturity in another 30 years or so, they'll achieve their highest state of wisdom in the third phase — if they're lucky to live that long. The planet's full orbit around the sun is said to signal massive change in a person's life, especially when it comes to experiencing the passing of time, the weight of age and the shifting priorities that come with forging new paths like having children or settling into a career.
Alabama-based sibling duo the Secret Sisters (Lydia and Laura Rogers) meditate on this transition, in the midst of their own second orbit, on new album Saturn Return. Aided by Brandi Carlile, alongside Phil and Tim Hanseroth, the record is a collection of ten folk-pop ruminations on matriarchal roles, female empowerment and familial death throughout these three generational phases. The Sisters employ a variety of traditional instruments and diaphanous vocal harmonies in a dynamic, haunting examination of newfound motherhood and the coinciding passing of their two grandmothers.
Opening the record with "Silver," the Sisters first lay down a foundational respect for their matriarchs, beckoning listeners to "behold the mark of wisdom" in an old woman's greying hair. Subsequently, the pair turn inward on "Late Bloomer" — a piano ballad with nods to Carole King's Tapestry — all about personal growth and the value of the journey over the destination. Both songs set the tone for Saturn's affirmation-heavy homage to female fortitude.
Moving along to darker matters, the record's lead single, "Cabin," comes with a heavy trigger warning, with the Sisters syphoning inspiration from the deeply upsetting outcome of the 2018 Kavanaugh hearing. It tells the story of a rage-filled woman on the brink of fiery eruption after experiencing sexual assault. "A fire rages inside me," the duo sing, "It does not feel like home / The one who did the damage carries on." The Rogers sisters offer no resolution and plot no revenge against the assailant, ending the song in defeat, singing, "If I tell his secret they won't believe me anyway."
Next, tracing the path of a forlorn friend from a past life, mid-album track "Fair" recounts another corresponding dark side of Saturn's return: the way heavenly forces — if not celestial coincidences — can steer undeserving lives to the brink of destruction by means of poor circumstance. The pair sing in perfect unison for the song's entirety, backed by whispering acoustic and lap steel guitars. It's a heart-wrenching study of a crestfallen hay-haired girl and the hope that soon her hard days will end.
"Healer in the Sky" bookends Saturn Return in its third phase, with its speaker finally attaining wisdom and grace as she readies herself for inevitable death. "I'll take my chances on the cancer," she sings, "I lived my life and I've found the answer." The Sisters concede to all of the record's themes in this track, wrapping it up with a shiny silver ribbon — a fitting end to an album that honours all the gritty chapters of a woman's life.
Accentuated by the pair's newly honed synchronicity and Carlile's expert production, the Secret Sisters' lofty ambitions for this record ring out clear and true. (New West)