The Toy Hearts "If The Blues Come Calling" (Woodville Records 2007)
West Midlands Swing anybody? Birmingham’s bluegrass family come calling.
A band from Birmingham playing rootsy bluegrass influenced songs, not all that unusual you might think, even if it is Kentucky that’s known as ‘the bluegrass state’, but then we’re talking about the Bullring, Jasper Carrot, Spaghetti Junction Birmingham, not the Alabama one! The band is based on the Johnson family, Hannah on lead vocals, her sister Sophia on lead guitar, and father Stewart on banjo and mandolin. Fiddle and double bass make up the full line up. Rather than, as you might expect, running through a bunch of standards, to their credit, the Johnson clan have mostly written this record themselves, only two of the eleven songs are covers. They haven’t attempted to disguise their Brit origins totally, ‘City Girl’ though not specific, does seem to be about their home city. The covers are the much played ‘John Henry’ which they do very nicely, and the western swing classic ‘Right or Wrong’ which Hannah’s voice is particularly well suited to. The influences the band members list are, predictably, the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Del McCoury, Dolly Parton etc.. If there is a problem with this record it’s not in the quality of performance which is very fine, it’s that it’s all a bit bloodless, nobody got hurt, its just way too nice, it would have been interesting to hear things get dark and dirty. The voices and playing are impressive and the family harmonies are very effective, but the overall impression is a bit tamer than it might have been.
Date review added: Friday, March 23, 2007
Reviewer: Patrick Wilkins
Related web link: www.toyhearts.co.uk