LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS-Oxford American, "A Magazine of the South," is proud to continue its 2017-18 Concert Series with The Secret Sisters on Thursday, September 21 at South on Main (1304 Main Street). The show starts at 8:00 PM and doors open at 6:00 PM, with food and drinks available for purchase at that time. Tickets range from $25 to $34 and are available via Metrotix.com or by calling 800-293-5949.
This is the first of four concerts in the 2017-18 Archetypes & Troubadours Series, which is made possible in part by the generosity of presenting sponsors Chris Harkins of Raymond James and J. Mark & Christy Davis. The show is also a part of the 2017 ACANSA Arts Festival.
Additional season partners include UCA College of Fine Arts & Communication, Acura, Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Downtown Little Rock Partnership, Stacy Hamilton of Pulaski Heights Realty, Ben E. Keith Foods Mid-South Division, Department of Arkansas Heritage, Arkansas Arts Council, ACANSA Arts Festival, Capital Hotel, Rosen Music Company, and Piano Kraft.
There are two ways of handling a dangerous, raging river: you can surrender and let it carry you away, or you can swim against the flow. For The Secret Sisters, there was a point after the release of their last record when they could have chosen to do neither-instead, sinking to the bottom as the weight of the world washed away their dreams. They went from touring with Bob Dylan to losing their label, purging their team, filing bankruptcy and almost permanently trading harmonies for housecleaning.
But there's a mythical pull to music that kept sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers moving forward, and they came out with a biting and beautiful third LP, produced by Brandi Carlile, You Don't Own Me Anymore. Their first as New West signees, it's a document of hardship and redemption, of pushing forward when it would be so much easier to drown in grief. And it's a story about how passion and pure artistry can be the strongest sort of salvation-how art is left, like perfect grains of sand, when everything else has washed away.
"This record is deeply personal because of what we endured," says Lydia. "But it's important as a songwriter and artist to talk about the times things weren't great. This is a hard business, and it's not all roses and rainbows. What we came out with is more honest than ever, and we couldn't help that a lot of it is about the darkness."
In the beginning, before that darkness moved in, things were a little like rainbows and roses for the sisters, who rose quickly through the music universe. An open audition in Nashville in 2009 lead them to a major label deal and a debut record produced by T Bone Burnett and Dave Cobb, followed by a tour with Levon Helm and Ray LaMontagne, a feat for any artist, let alone two that had just gotten started. From there, they opened for the likes of Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Paul Simon, appeared on numerous late night shows, and released a second album with Burnett. But the tides turned quickly-things can change in an instant, both for the good, and the bad. And when the clouds started to lift, Carlile was there to help usher in the sunshine.
The end product finds the sisters taking their music to new places, with soulful, gospel grooves and stirring vocal deliveries that never seek perfection over power. From murder ballads to skewering roasts, it's a guidebook for survival.
After all, sometimes you have to lose everything to get a renewed version in return. Like the Tennessee River they sing about, only after a drought does fresh, new water come rushing in. The same could be said for The Secret Sisters, who were scraped dry and put through hell, coming out with their finest record, You Don't Own Me Anymore. "The only way we could have completely healed was to have written an entire record," says Laura. "I think we were just in the wrong parts of the machine," says her sister. "We feel like we have learned where not to be, and where to go." And that's to never let anyone or anything own them again.
2017-2018 SEASON PARTNERS
ABOUT THE OXFORD AMERICAN
Oxford American is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization and national magazine dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing, while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South. The Oxford American is committed to the development of young individuals aspiring to work in the publishing industry and to the production and presentation of multidisciplinary arts events in and around Little Rock, Arkansas. Billed as "A Magazine of the South," it has won four National Magazine Awards-including the 2016 Award for General Excellence in the category of Literature, Science and Politics-and other high honors since it began publication in 1992.
The magazine has featured the original work of such literary powerhouses as Charles Portis, Roy Blount, Jr., ZZ Packer, Donald Harington, Donna Tartt, Ernest J. Gaines, and many other distinguished authors, while also discovering and launching the most promising writers in the region. The magazine has also published previously unseen work by such Southern masters as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, James Agee, Zora Neale Hurston, James Dickey, and Carson McCullers, to name just a handful. The Oxford American is published from the University of Central Arkansas. For more information, visit OxfordAmerican.org.
ABOUT SOUTH ON MAIN
South on Main is a restaurant and performance venue featuring the best of Southern cuisine and culture. With a kitchen helmed by Chef Matthew Bell, the restaurant offers a sophisticated but unpretentious atmosphere and a creative and accessible menu. South on Main also presents programming related to the content of the Oxford American magazine, including musical performances, literary readings, film screenings, and other offerings, making it the place where the Oxford American goes "from the page to the stage."