|Saturday 01 March 2014 @ 02:00pm : -
The Toy Hearts
This Birmingham based sister fronted outfit have been not-so-quietly carving out their own niche in the Americana and Roots music scene for a while now, so if you haven’t been to one of their shows before you are in for a real treat. And, although it may seem improbable that two young women from the Midlands would have the ability to produce authentic and innovative Country music, you really should leave those pre-conceptions at the door.
One thing about The Toy Hearts is clear: their love for the music they play and the conviction of their delivery far exceeds any simple mimicry of American music. They manage to tip their hats to their influences from Bluegrass, Country and Swing, while making their own mark, and having their own distinct style, which is quite different to that of those whom inspire them. From the heartbreak in Hannah’s voice, to her sister’s take-no-prisoners guitar playing, to their father Stewart''s multi instrumental talents, this unlikely trio demonstrate what it means to really want to play this kind of music and truly love doing so.
Having toured extensively since making their first record in 2006, they have played gigs and festivals across the UK, Europe and USA, so they have paid their musical dues the old fashioned way by being on the road an awful lot! They have opened for the likes of Robert Plant, Imelda May, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, The Hot Club of Cowtown, Gene Watson & Ricky Skaggs. Their Nashville recorded 2010 release ‘Femme Fatale’ received several plays from Bob Harris and the band went into BBC Radio 2 studios to record a live session with him in 2011.
Their fourth offering from their own label Wood Ville Music, new album, ‘Whiskey’ was released on June 24th 2012, distributed by Proper. It was recorded in their home studio in Birmingham UK, but was edited and mixed by Grammy nominated engineer/producer Ben Surratt in his studio The Rec Room, Nashville TN. This is their first cd to be half original material half covers, and while previous recordings have been more acoustic and bluegrass orientated, this is an homage to some of the other genres that inspire the band, particularly Western Swing, Rockabilly, Jazz and Blues. As the album title suggests, there is a healthy dose of good ol’ drinking songs ''Whiskey'', ''Pass The Jack'', ''Me and My Gin''.
It is an album about vices, drinking in particular, and coping with working in a world where the drinks are always flowing. Lyrically it deals with the fall out from failed relationships, heartbreak, lonesomeness and issues of self control, but despite this, the feel of the album remains determinedly upbeat, there is definite joy and even humor in both the playing and songs. The Toy Hearts continue to develop their own signature style of songwriting; with catchy choruses, blood harmonies, hot guitar and steel picking. With an extensive UK tour Spring & Summer 2012, a return to the USA in October, and with fans in people as diverse as Bob Harris, Robert Plant, Ronnie Wood, Rob da Bank, and Imelda May isn’t it time you saw them for yourself?
Yes it is Country and we do like it!
“So what''s all the fuss about a father and two daughters from Birmingham playing American roots music? Make that Birmingham, England. And make that some of the most skillfully and joyously played American roots music on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, and you start to see why The Toy Hearts are so special." ~ Austin Music Journal, Texas, USA, September 2013.
“(On Whiskey) ''Swinging sisters plus dad continue to surprise... A solid slab of good time listening." ~ MT, Guitarist, July 2012.
“(On Whiskey) ''This is a great album by one of Britain''s best country groups." ~ David Knowles, Maverick, July 2012.
“Mixing influences from country music at the time of Hank Williams with influences from the blues of the 1930er/40er years together with elements of Brit Soul, from Dusty Springfield to Amy Winehouse. This sounds and is exciting, thrilling and hot." ~ Broken Silence, July 2012.
“Yoking their majestic close harmony voices to some splendid musical back-ups, theirs is a classic sound that somehow belongs to the here and now... The many charms of Whiskey ensures that you''ll be making plenty of trips to The Toy Hearts bar." ~ ACR, Properganda, June/July 2012.
“Whiskey, the group''s fourth album, has much to recommend it: not least the heartfelt vocals of lead singer Hannah Johnson." ~ Simmy Richman, The Independent, June 2012.
“The Toy Hearts will soon be stealing more hearts. Make mine a double." ~ Sunday Mercury, ''Album of the Week'', June 2012.
“Jolly steel guitar laced, harmony-rich country swing. Their natural feel for the jazzier end if the honky tonk is reflected in competent originals and covers of classics.&" ~ The Daily Mirror, June 2012.
“Yet more fine music from one of the best British bands... An album that reaches out beyond the band''s bluegrass roots and should see them consolidate their position as among the best of British." ~ Jeremy Searle, Americana UK, June 2012.
“Whiskey is an album that shows off The Toy Hearts at their versatile best as they incorporate elements of Bluegrass, swing, jazz, blues and country to produce this feel good record that is unlike anything else around at the moment." ~ Helen Earnshaw, Female First, June 2012.
“There is a distinctive sheen to everything on the album but nothing that has that cloying glossiness that is so formulaic. In this generic field you will be very fortunate to hear better this year!" ~ American Roots UK, June 2012.