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Making perfect sense of Striking Matches, The Secret Sisters

Brighton Music Hall, Boston, May 26, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

The pairing of Striking Matches and The Secret Sisters on tour makes perfect sense. Both are duos, although the Matches are male/female and the Secrets truly are sisters (Rogers is the name, not Secret). Both emphasize keen vocal interplay. And perhaps most importantly, they shared a very famous producer, T Bone Burnett.

But when it came to the live show on the first night of their three-week U.S. tour together, the commonalities were less overt.

Striking Matches, the duo of Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmerman, strayed further from their roots. On their recently released debut, "Nothing But the Silence," The Civil Wars were a most overt reference point. The tone was on the quieter side, and the vocal interplay between Zimmerman and Davis stood out.

But they are both guitar players, and the guitars took center stage far more than their vocals did live.

The result was a show that was more squarely in the rock realm - for a while anyway. Sure, Zimmerman played a brand new electric mandolin, and it did come through, but their vocals were buried for about half of the 65-minute set

On their face, songs like "Trouble Is as Trouble Does," "Missing You Tonight" and "Missing You More" would be just fine (lot of "missing" going on there), but it was hard to hear their vocals.

That changed when it was just Davis and Zimmerman onstage without their backing rhythm section starting with "He Only Loves Me When It's Raining" and "When the Right One Comes Along" where their vocal harmonies clicked.

Zimmerman and Davis soon turned it up a few notches by charging into Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" where both displayed their shredding skills. Davis was the more prominent player, but Zimmerman was no slouch on slide.

They closed out the night by putting their own take of "Can't Help Falling in Love."

Chances are that Striking Matches, an earnest pair of musicians who have been together since a Belmont University professor paired them up about eight years ago, should be given some slack. After all, it was the first night of the tour, and they have not been heavy on the tour schedule. Nor have they played with their backing band of bass and drums all that much.

Turn down the volume and turn up the vocals, and Striking Matches could be special.

The Secret Sisters, unfortunately, have lived up to their name at least in the commercial realm. Laura and Lydia Rogers are the female Everly Brothers, and that is an ultra-high compliment. The Alabama-born sisters proved that through two albums and in shows.

It was just the two of them onstage with one shared acoustic guitar going back and forth. They traded who performed lead vocals on a particular song, but it was the beauty of their harmonies that really set them apart. Whether quiet or more upbeat, the beauty always came through.

The Rogers sisters mixed originals with covers, including a gorgeous reading of "You Send Me," which Paul Simon encouraged them to perform upon hearing them singing it in the dressing room before a concert they were opening for him.

"Tomorrow Will be Kinder" from "The Hunger Games" soundtrack was a pretty sounding track as well inspiring by a deadly tornado in Alabama.

Laura Rogers, who does most of the talking, still picks on her sister, but one gets the sense this is more playful and not Brothers Gallagher of Oasis fame.

But it's their vocal harmonies that stood out far more. The gorgeous singing was never as apparent as on the closing number of their hour-long set, "Tonight You Belong to Me." They went to the very lip of the stage singing a capella with Laura taking lead. A lovely ending to another top shelf set from The Secret Sisters.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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