Kiya Heartwood - 'Palo Duro'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Kiya Heartwood, an award winning independent music veteran who’s recently dropped her latest studio endeavor, ‘Palo Duro.’ The singer songwriter’s flair for roots rock, folk, and country musings is particularly refreshing because of its remarkable authenticity. ‘Palo Duro’ is an album that embraces a grassroots style that is so missing in the indie scene right now. Let’s explore the new album.

It’s worth immediately noting that I spun ‘Palo Duro’ twice through in-studio on monitors. The production is very good. It’s simplistic, yes, but Heartwood is elegantly accented amidst very complimentary soundscapes of traditional instrumentation, and later on, edgier rock compositions. Often times in the indie scene artists struggle with this type of production. Everything on ‘Palo Duro,’ however, fits into itself nicely to create a pretty full portrait - no mastering problems or ill-organized mixes.

That portrait is very American. This is traditional Americana at its best in the scene right now. While the opening track, ‘Icarus,’ is perfectly pleasant, the titular track that follows is especially good. The atmospheric, reverberated space that Heartwood creates is reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s ‘Man in the Long Black Coat,’ with its raw harmonica sections and sharp lyricism. If the record exhibits anything, it’s that Heartwood is a strong storyteller. That’s her most admirable quality.

I’d argue there are other flairs to the album as well. ‘Mirage,’ for example, has hints of Latin influence scattered throughout. The nylon string classical guitar and hand percussion are very well performed - she’s got a strong backing outfit. It’s a stark contrast to the steel-stringed ‘Palo Duro.’ ‘Ferris Wheel’ then makes another jump, offering a soft spoken, introspective jaunt.

I was a bit worried that this album would fall victim to the same issue a lot of rootsy indie records do - being too long. At ten tracks, it’s a meaty offering that I was worried would get bogged down in repetitious stylings or lyricism. Surprisingly, however, each of the ten tunes is quite apt for inclusion.

Within her own genre niche, Heartwood actually carves out different subsets of styles. Take ‘Fame and Fortune.’ The upbeat tune sounds like it’s straight out of Nashville. Then, you hit ‘White Flag,’ one of my personal favorites on the effort, and you’re greeted with soft, but edgy electric guitar that dances about with rhythm guitar in an anthemic way.

The best track of the latter half of ‘Palo Duro’ may very well be ‘End of the War.’ Completing an electric evolution that was hinted at on ‘White Flag,’ the track hosts some electric guitar musings that are borderline bluesy. Heartwood’s lyricism is at her strongest, too, as she croons, “I never really understood what we were fighting for.”

As the record progresses, Heartwood’s musical themes actually become more rock oriented and more contemporary. This is very good - it gives her some basis in a modern scene that then accentuates her traditional structures. ‘Burial Ground’ is one of the more punchy tracks on the album, an exhibition of gritty, Texan-style rock. ‘Perfect’ then offers a ballad-esque excursion through similar territory.

To close out the album, Heartwood fittingly returns to the traditional stylings of the former half of the collection. ‘Veinte Anos’ directly delves into that Latin/Spanish influence toyed with on ‘Mirage.’ It’s actually a duet with a male vocalist in Spanish set to a sweeping classical guitar. It’s one hell of a closer, and a statement of immense versatility.

Kiya Heartwood genuinely excites me. As a deep lover of traditional Americana, blues, folk, and other similar avenues of music, I see Heartwood as a breath of fresh air amidst a scene very preoccupied with far less genuine endeavors. (A lot of the Americana that comes across my desk is indie rock with an acoustic guitar at best.) This is the real thing. Spin it below!

Orlando Sentinel Orlando Fringe Festival's Best of Fringe 2015

Orlando Fringe Festival's Best of Fringe 2015

The Orlando Sentinel reviewing team has seen more than 100 shows at the 24th annual Orlando Fringe Festival, now underway at venues around Loch Haven Park. From comedy to dance, from music to mystery and magic, here are our 15 picks for the Best of Fringe, listed alphabetically. All critiques, plus video previews of many of the shows, are available online at

It was a particularly strong year at the Fringe — and we had trouble narrowing down our favorites. We didn't even let ourselves count the revival of "6 Guitars," which is among the Fringe's all-time best productions.

'Kiya Heartwood: Song Tales from the American Edge'

Kiya Heartwood is a modern-day American troubadour. She scours the nooks and crannies of history to find interesting tales of romance, injustice, danger and death. It's a simple show but it packs a powerful punch. Bronze venue, 55 mins., 7+, $10. Show: 2 p.m. Saturday, May 23.



Orlando Weekly Fri. May 15, 2015


Friday, May 15, 2015

Fringe 2015 review: "Kiya Heartwood: Song Tales from the American Edge"

Posted By  on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 4:43 pm

  • Photo via Kiya Heartwood

Near the beginning of "Song Tales From the American Edge," Texan storyteller/songwriter Kiya Heartwood illustrates her tale of martyred labor leader Joe Hill by apparently drinking a glass of ashes onstage. While the moment made me reflexively recoil, it’s a perfect metaphor for Heartwood’s sincere commitment to speaking for the voiceless on society’s fringes. Most of her self-penned folk-rock story-songs are based on overlooked historical figures who lived on America’s edges – the razor’s edge, the cutting edge or even the edge of the world. 

Her subjects range from a legendary Cape Cod pirate’s ghostly lover, to the beleaguered Comanche fleeing the U.S. Army’s ambush at Palo Duro Canyon, to Walt Whitman, Heartwood’s favorite poet and “fashion consultant.” An autobiographical number about the death of Kentucky’s horse culture made me tear up, and the audience participation finale might inspire you to join the union’s Dishpan Brigade (or at least subscribe to Mother Jones). I grew up going to a summer camp run by socialist hippies, and many of Heartwood’s songs would have fit in fine around the firepit. Other have choruses hooky enough to rock a coffeehouse or club, though the well-researched verses can sometimes seem like Wikipedia entries set to music.

Heartwood is no modern pop princess, but her swift fingers and soulful voice hearken back to when being a rock star required talent. (Heartwood also projects and enunciates well enough to understand every word without amplification; other performers, please take notes.) Heartwood’s odes to outsiders and antiheroes are unabashedly left-wing, so if you’re a loyal Fox News viewer, this probably isn’t for you. Then again, maybe it should be; if more people understood and appreciated the last century’s labor and civil rights struggles, we might not be going through them all over again today.

Kiya Heartwood: Song Tales From the American Edge
Outlaw Hill Arts – Austin, TX
Venue: Bronze 
Length: 55 
Rating: 7 and up 
Price: $10 

The List Aug. 2015

"Short Stories – True Song Tales From The American Edge (Kiya Heartwood)
It's easy to like a performer who calls herself shy, then vigorously headbangs to a song about Walt Whitman. Singer-songwriter Kiya Heartwood has a disarming openness which fills her short set with warmth. She plays straightforward acoustic folk, studded with occasional blues riffs and bluegrass flurries. Though at times her earnest lyrics feel naive, it's the true stories behind them that become the real focus. Built on bitter-sweet nostalgia for America's past, they're populated by steelworkers, rabble-rousers and underdogs of all kinds. Channelling down-home friendliness and shades of Janis Joplin, Heartwood is a fine and engaging storyteller. Quickly winning over the crowd, she soon has the audience singing along, and leaves them pondering those seldom told tales." 3/5
theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall, until 23 Aug. [Dave Fargnoli]

Broadway Baby Interview August 18, 2014

The Kiya Heartwood Three Minute Interview

Kiya Heartwood is an award-winning American singer-songwriter who writes smart, funny and poignant songs about the famous and not-so-famous legends of America. She is making her first appearance at the Fringe with her acoustic show, Short Stories: True Song Tales from the American Edge. Broadway Baby’s Dave House caught up with Kiya Heartwood to talk to the artist about her work.

The Fringe is a beautiful festival, mad and inspiring. Of course I hope to come back next year and many years to come.

What is “the American Edge”?

To me it's the underdogs and outsiders who aren't living on Wall Street bonuses. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The Handmaid's Tale, “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

What artists have inspired your writing and musical style?


My influences are a combination of folk rock artists like Neil Young, Jackson Browne, or Joni Mitchell, contemporary folk writers like Cheryl Wheeler and Patty Griffin, Americana artists like Steve Earle, Joe Ely and Buddy Miller, British folk revival artists like the Watersons, Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, and political singers like Holly Near and Dick Gaughan. Of course, Woody Guthrie. I hope to write story songs that are in the living tradition but I don't want to just imitate the old songs but actually keep adding new stories to the pile. There isn't as much of this going on in America as I might wish, but the stories I know best are American stories. As Woody Guthrie said, "Write what you know."

You've had a music career that's spanned nearly 30 years. What have been some of the highlights of your career?


Many beautiful moments… Getting signed to Arista in the late 80's with my Folk Rock band, Stealin Horses, being on MTV and playing Farm Aid in 1990. Playing the last gig in Cafe LMNOP in Lexington, KY, when the skaters and the punks left the bar singing the chorus to my song, ‘The Ballad of the Pralltown Cafe’ - "There'll be no rockin' in the Cafe tonight...", playing the Kennedy Center, the Philly Folk Festival and Kerrville Folk Festivals with Wishing Chair, and now as a solo artist, I'm making some amazing memories here in Edinburgh.

What do you think it is that makes these American tales so universally appealing?


These are the people who push the edges and change the center. I tend to write songs that keep my own spirits up. Many of these people are my compass points and sources of inspiration. I think people can identify with the uphill struggles of these characters.

How are you finding the Edinburgh Festival and will you come back again?


Performing regularly in Europe has been a dream of mine for many, many years and Edinburgh is amazing. Besides having many ancestors from Scotland, I love the layers of history and intellectual sparring carried in the very stones of the buildings. The Fringe is a beautiful festival, mad and inspiring. Of course I hope to come back next year and many years to come. I feel very at home here.



BROADWAY BABY August 14, 2014

****-Broadway Baby
"Short Stories – True Song Tales from the American Edge
by Dave House on 14th August 2014

Short Stories - True Song Tales from the American Edge is an acoustic solo show from Kiya Heartwood, an award-winning American singer-songwriter. Her songs are based in American folk tradition and tell the stories of some of America’s famous (and not so famous) legends. Within her repertoire are songs about the real Calamity Jane, the last of the great American race horses and a cross dressing confederate. Heartwood’s songs are easy listening, with a beautiful country quality that transports you to America’s folk lands.

Her songs have a personal and heartfelt quality, injected with a good amount of humour and sentiment.

Heartwood’s career in the States has spanned nearly thirty years. She was the lead singer and songwriter in the folk rock band Stealin’ Horses and was one half of the folk duo Wishing Chair. She is now pursuing a solo career, performing at the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time.

Heartwood has an endearing personality and she does a good job of bringing her audience into the songs, talking about the history that surrounds each one and getting the audience to sing along. She begins with The Ballad of the Pralltown Café and soon gets the audience joining in on the chorus. Following songs include Calamity Jane; the fantastic country song, Sue Mundy, about the cross dressing confederate; and the lively Higher Ground. While she doesn’t quite reach the raw power of some of the more renowned great folk and country singers, her songs have a personal and heartfelt quality, injected with a good amount of humour and sentiment. These are songs about America’s rich history and the real enjoyment that you get from listening to them is their ability take you into times and places long gone.
Fans of storytelling, American history and folk and country music should get a lot of pleasure from Heartwood’s modest solo set." 

By Dave House DaveHouse86

FEST MAGAZINE August 9th, 2014

8/9/2014 Fest Magazine Live Show Review by Alice Saville

"The Edge, here, is a more marginal America that isn’t always a winner - made up of ordinary people, fighting or escaping the country’s relentless narrative of capitalism, cheap labour and globalisation. Kiya Heartwood is an acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter from oddball oasis, Austin, Texas; but she sings tales of underdogs from all over, with a distinctly American, soulful sincerity.

Her opener trots through the story of Man o’War, the 1920s racehorse extraordinaire. Eulogising his impressive strength—he could carry 138 pounds, helpfully translated for British laymen as both 10 stone, and an awful lot for a horse—Heartwood also uses him as a symbol for an America that’s been lost. Poignantly, she sings of stables and fields replaced by cookie-cutter houses in the neverending race to suburban sprawl.

Mother Jones is no less fearsome or loved – a black-clad widow who stirred up workers to strike for fair pay. Heartwood’s husky, wistful voice strengthens to a guttural call to arms for the “dishpan brigade” of women who fended off blackleggers with household weapons. She also stretches to naive, gutsy blues—“I built my house on a burial ground/Ghosts and spirits were all around”—and a softer, subtle memoir of growing up a tomboy in her brother’s shadow.

Heartwood describes herself as shy, but she’s clearly capable of wrestling an audience tens of times this tiny size into foot-stamping, chorus-joining submission. A soulless Edinburgh black box space might not be the best place to cosy up to her distinctive, atmospheric songs, but she’s a seasoned enough performer to light up any room with flickering, folksy warmth."

Seattle Post

10/24/13 Music Review: KiyaHeartwood - Bold Swimmer - 1/2
Music Review: Kiya Heartwood - Bold Swimmer
By Richard Marcus, BLOGCRITICS.ORG
Published 2:55 pm, Thursday, February 16, 2012

I don't know about anyone else but I've always resented people telling me I should listen to, or even worse like, a certain performer because of
who they are or what they sing about. Just because somebody agrees with me politically has no bearing on their abilities as a musician or the
quality of the songs they write. Some of the worst tripe I've ever heard being passed off as music has issued from some of these so-called
important singer-songwriters. Giving someone a good review just because of their politics, gender, or skin colour is as biased and unethical as
giving them a bad review for the same reason.
I might take things like the conditions under which a recording was made into account when reviewing a disc, but making what a person is
more important than what they can do is not somewhere I'm ever going to go. In the 1980s and 1990s I knew people who would tell me it was
my duty to like certain, more-often-than-not women, performers because it was a way of showing solidarity with the people you supported
politically. There were a couple of them whom I actually liked; Ferron and Holly Near are still names I remember fondly (that doesn't mean
either of these women are dead or have stopped performing, it just means I've not heard anything they've done recently). The rest of them
were all so busy competing for the "more earnest than thou" prize they forgot that music should be an expression of the soul first and foremost
and everything else is secondary. Your content can be as politically progressive as Che, but if you don't sound like you're putting your heart into
it, who cares.
Six years ago I reviewed a disc by the folk duo Wishing Chair and was impressed by both their musical abilities and their songwriting skills. So
when somebody contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing a solo recording by one of the two women in the group I said yes. It
turns out Kiya Heartwood is just as good a solo performer as she is when working in a duo. Her new release, Bold Swimmer, is a great
collection of material that ranges stylistically from rocking blues to what I'd call country, but most would probably call folk.
In spite of the success of people like Bonnie Raitt there's still a lot of macho bullshit attached to the playing of electric blues and rock and roll.
I'd long ago become sick and tired of guitar players obviously in serious need of therapy regarding issues of inadequacy, and never bought into
the "chicks are only good for two types of banging - tambourines and me" attitude that still seems to predominate rock and roll.
Unfortunately that attitude is so ingrained that even today the majority of woman performers in the mainstream of music aren't going to be
laying down hot guitar leads while fronting a band. All of which means releases like this one aren't going to get the attention they deserve. If it
were only the consumers who were losing out I'd just say "Your loss, suckers," but unfortunately it also means Heartwood, and probably
countless other woman performers, aren't receiving the attention they deserve.
One of the first things you'll notice about this disc that distinguishes it from most other recordings of this kind is that there aren't any songs
about a lover treating the singer badly on it. I don't know what it is about blues-based rock that makes people think they have to write about
being cheated on all the time. If I never hear another he/she broke my heart tune it will be too soon. Can it be so hard for people to think of
anything else to sing about? There are eleven tracks on Bold Swimmer and not one of them qualifies as a he/she done me wrong song. Even
the love song, "I Love You," is just a nice and simple tune speaking directly to the subject of why the singer loves her partner without undue
sentimentality or any of the histrionics one normally associates with love songs by both male and female singers.
I don't know if "Cross The Line" is quite what others would call a love song, as it's a raunchy blues number singing the praises of going that one
step further than PG relationships normally go, but it and the song right after it, "Take Me," are the only other songs on the disc that come
close to qualifying. The other thing separating these two tracks from the type of love song you normally hear from woman singers is that
there's not a single note of pleading with some guy for acceptance. No promises to love somebody, faults and all, or any of the other
conciliatory statements women are expected to make in order to obtain true love in popular culture.
While these tracks are good, and in fact there's not really a weak number on the disc, two tracks that really stand out are "Change (is gonna
come)" and "Lights Of Austin." In the case of the former the lyrics were the primary attraction, while in the latter it was the overall sound that
captured my attention. Too many political songs are nothing more than self-righteous rants by people feeling guilty for making a killing in
record sales and box office receipts. It's rare to hear someone take the time and effort to analyze their own reactions to events in the world.
In "Change" Heartwood sings about how anger and frustration aren't the answer and are self-defeating if we want change. Sure there are lots
of reasons to be angry, and she lists quite a few of them, but in the long run we only hurt ourselves and those who need our help with anger.
Real change can only be accomplished with hope for something better. This doesn't mean we should just sit back and hope things get better,
but we need to find a way to effect change without anger being our motivating force. It's a powerful message that needs to be heard more
often, one that offers an antidote to the rhetoric of hate you usually hear from political types of all stripes in this day and age.
"Lights Of Austin" shows Heartwood is more than just your typical folk rock performer. Musically it might fall into that catch-all category of
"Americana" or "roots," but those labels don't seem to do justice to the song's emotional depth. With its simple acoustic guitar introduction
gradually being embellished by the other instruments, she sings about the importance of following your dreams, whatever they may be, as far
as possible. It's a topic that's ripe for being turned into sentimental tripe, but Heartwood avoids any of the musical and lyrical cliches that you'd
normally find in this type of material. There are no swelling strings or crescendos of any sort, just a good simple song a g about living a life which generates stories that can be told long into the future.
Heartwood's singing voice is ideally suited to the type of material she's chosen to create. Its roughness suits both the bolder rock and roll/blues
numbers and the slower country/folk tunes. With the former there's the power needed to sound convincing without having to strain and sound
like she's working too hard, while with the latter it gives the material the extra little edge of authenticity required to make them credible.
Combine this with her abilities as a songwriter and composer and you have an album of music that is more than just a cut above what you'd
normally hear these days from a solo female performer. You have something that's good no matter who wrote or performed it.
Don't listen to this disc because it's something you feel like you should do, like pretending you enjoy eating something because it's good for you;
listen to it because it's a damn good album. Pleasures don't always have to make you feel guilty, and just because something's good for you
doesn't necessarily mean it tastes bad. Kyra Heartwood's latest recording is proof positive that you can be nourished by music and enjoy it too


  • Bold Swimmer Review By Christy Claxton 
        Variety, technical expertise, and wise lyrics are the signs of a seasoned songwriter. After years of fronting successful bands, former Arista artist, Kiya Heartwood, has stepped into brave territory and offered her first solo album. If the name is unfamiliar, chances are that her collaborative efforts are not. Folk fans and women’s music supporters are very familiar with the award winning folk duo, Wishing Chair. However, these days, the Texas songwriter, that is responsible for the catchy tunes and smart lyrics that dominated the indie awards scene in the last 12 years, is jumping in by herself. 
    Bold Swimmer is Heartwood’s first solo effort. Her composition skills are some of the best going. It’s very hard to hear the same song twice in the music. It’s full of variety that comes with experience. She’s listened to more music than any young player, and she’s walked a long, tough road that frankly, today’s hopefuls will never know. So what sells? Skill. Top shelf guitar skills, seasoned lyrics, and masterful arrangements. 
    One thing she doesn’t do is give up control of her record. That means she manages to keep her recordings from getting that ubiquitous Mark Hallman brand. He’s there to engineer. Heartwood is her own producer. Hallman is the owner and ever-present entity behind the celebrated Congress House Studio in Austin, Texas. He’s responsible for Ani Difranco’s Dilate, most of Eliza Gylkison’s recordings (including her Grammy nominations), and a host of other celebrated women in music. Kiya Heartwood is perfect for Congress House because she doesn’t need coaching in the studio. 
    Heartwood’s instrumental skills are as tight as any studio musician, so the recording process opens up and becomes an expert volley of sounds and ideas. Listening to Bold Swimmer is a pro music marathon. Although she’s only lived in Austin a short time, Heartwood sounds like she should be side by side with Austin powerhouse musicians like Alejandro Escovedo. She brings on the kind of variety and passion that make the local Post Punk icon a perennial favorite in Rock music circles. 
    Those who already know Kiya Heartwood will hear the biography in Bold Swimmer’s songs. It makes for a fantastic listen. Those who are new to her music will become engaged in a moving story. The theme is clear: wading through the indie music quagmire is damn hard to do. Only the very strongest manage to last for over 30 years. That’s what the album reveals. 
    The subject matter of the songs varies as they lay out a musical timeline. There are songs about social justice, hard knocks, self-awakening, and love. They’re all framed in the hard knocks journey that is Kiya Heartwood’s musical career. 
    The album kicks off the with the title track, and right out of the shoot we know that this longtime lesbian indie pioneer is still willing to break away from her comfort zone and swim to the next horizon. The song begins, “Now the hungry ghosts are waiting at my table for a feast.” Young musicians take heed. From the very first line of Bold Swimmer Kiya Heartwood makes it clear that relying on the past gets a serious performer nowhere. The framework is set, and the album becomes a review of her life, her music, and best of all, her skill. 
    TV reminds me of the old Austin lesbian rock scene of the early 90’s. I’m transported back to the days of the Austin lesbian hangout, Chances. I can easily imagine Heartwood punking out with Darcie Deville and Terri Lord. This is like a calling card to say that, indeed, Kiya Heartwood has a place as an Austin rocker. 
    The album has also produced some Jango Radio favorites with I Love You, Change, and The Lights of Austin. Interestingly, they’re all very different tunes. This is indicative of Heartwood’s ability to change her style and mood to perfectly fit a song. I Love You is a mellow, sweet tune that is musically reminiscent of Wishing Chair. Her folk duo effortlessly burns into the collective listening memory, so it makes sense that this simple, direct song would rise to the top. 
    Although it would be more accurate to describe her as a roots rocker in the Americana genre, Heartwood is a social activist at heart, so Change is the kind of song that connects people to her and turns them into lifelong fans. However, I’m personally surprised that Lights of Austin is a more popular on rotation than the title track, Bold Swimmer. Maybe it’s the reference to Austin, and maybe it’s because this song bookends the album. Like the title track, this is a song about diving in and plunging forward. It’s about wisdom, and that’s the one thing a performer like Kiya Heartwood brings to the musical universe. Serious music connoisseurs are delighted with anything she produces. 
    Alejandro Escovedo is the closest person I can come up with for a good comparison for this new Austin musical resident. Maybe it’s because Heartwood easily stands up to the biggest male musicians in a decidedly male industry. In my fantasy world, Kiya and Alejandro would walk into the Continental Club, take the stage, and take control of the tourist situation that’s killed the cool in SoCo. 
    Here’s why I want this. The really great musicians transcend style and scene. They are just impossible to ignore because they are the ones who lead the way into the very hard journey that is music. “New” sounds really spring from these greats. There is no way that anyone is going to convince me that someone as seasoned and accomplished as Kiya Heartwood isn’t part of some young female performer’s musical psyche; whether she knows it or not. 
    That means that we have to lift up and support the quiet effort of the master musicians among us. They’re in local clubs, coffee houses, house concerts, and online radio sites. They quietly slip in between the “famous” people, and when they do, somebody always perks up and wonders, “who is that?” It’s tough to make a first impression in the sea of everyone, but Kiya Heartwood continues to do it because she’s finally where she should be… at home in the city of unassuming musical greats – Austin. 

    - See more at:


Sing Out!

Sing Out! Volume 49 #4, Winter "Kiya Heartwood and Miriam Davidson, collectively known as Wishing Chair, score again. They have a lot of important things to say in the dozen Heartwood originals on this CD. Although versatile on a variety of instruments themselves, producer Mark Hallman roped in another nine musicians to give the album variety and texture. It ranges from pop to folk, leaning somewhat toward a more produced sound, with consistently involved performances by Heartwood and Davidson. Not only are the vocals assured, but there's also some great guitar picking by Heartwood and banjo by Davidson. The songs range from the rigors of the road in the opening One Real Song,to an anti-war Civil War song with a twist, Sue Mundy, to a proudly defiant song , Outlaw Wedding.Bully Circus wastes no words about the travesty of our current government. Adagio pays homage to Vedran Smailovic, a cellist in the former Sarajevo Opera, as well as Holly Near who told Heartwood the story on which she based the song. Heartwood and Davidson have never sounded tighter or more energetic in their performance. Wising Chair just keeps getting better."

Dirty Linen

Dirty Linen February/March #122 Wishing Chair - messages to the outlaw circus. Kentucky-based duo Wishing Chair serves up a lively batch of original songs that follow on to two of the oldest traditions of folk music: storytelling and political broadside. The two are often interwoven, as with "Outlaw Wedding," and often set to catchy melodies as well, as in "Bully Circus," for example. The political issues are the substance, and they are handled in a variety of creative ways to deliver those messages. The project was produced by Mark Hallman, who has worked with Eliza Gilkyson. Eamon McLoughlin and Kym Warner of the Greencards are among those who back up Kiya Heartwood and Miriam Davidson, the duo who are Wishing Chair.

Performing Songwriter

Performing Songwriter Magazine-Wishing Chair never fails to create that exhilarating sense one gets when great melodies, strong harmonies, and superb execution come together. But make no mistake: far from being tepid folkies, this gifted outfit delivers its finely-crafted songs with confidence, spirit and sass.

Stonewall Society

Stonewall Society- Len Rogers
    The most difficult thing about writing this review was concentrating on the writing of the review. Kiya Heartwood draws you into the music, heart, mind, and soul. So I frequently found myself lost in the music with an empty page glaring back at me. Of course my old hippie self was and is overjoyed at "Bold Swimmer" and all that Kiya brings to the listening enjoyment. However the reviewer side was stuck on simple reactions like; "wonderful", bravo" "beautiful!" and the ever-present hit the replay button! Truly unique, and in some soothing ways reminiscent of names like Heart and Bonnie Raitt. In other words an awesome talent! Kiya Heartwood is one half of the award winning duo Wishing Chair. Kiya's stand alone strength is equally inspiring. 

Eleven tracks strong this is a full flavored and all delivering showcase of the power of Heartwood's talent. A folk based rocking blues musical trip which leaves you wanting more. Much more. Ten of the songs are pure Kiya Heartwood words and music. That is indeed a very good thing. However, just as mesmerizing is Heartwood's cover of the Bricusse/Newly classic "Feeling Good". There is no lesser standing to any portion of "Bold Swimmer". Production is flawless. Instrumentation and accompaniment is perfect. Lyrics are pertinent, timeless, and touching. Kiya takes you from toe-tapping indulgence to out of your chair and moving, in seamless sweeps of musical passion. The album title comes from Walt Whitman's "Song Of Myself Part 46" and in that tells you right away this is a thinking music lover's CD. 

Beginning with the title track, "Bold Swimmer" Heartwood delivers more than this listener imagined. By the end of the title song I was drawn in, totally at ease, and lost in Heartwood's talent. "Bold Swimmer" is catchy yet not overly commercial in style. Immediately I found myself humming along and in a pure state of enjoyment. Transitions from song to song are natural. No rough bumps or suddenly endings. Heartwood is smooth and wraps your senses with pleasant imagery, soul soothing melodies, and lyrical prowess. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite form "Bold Swimmer". 

Stand outs for me would be obviously more than one song. "Change (Is Gonna Come) however warmed this activist's heart. Yet was more inspiring than emotionally charging. No angst ridden protest songs here. Real lyrics about our times and reactions of the heart and soul, not marching music. "I Love You" a pure love song but not a 'done me wrong' song. Refreshing in that Heartwood talks of loving, and not the frequently heard he/she broke my heart type. That same positive and touching approach is constant throughout the entire CD which is "Bold Swimmer". "Cross The Line" more about taking it to the next level, than what you would expect from the title. Is a steamy bluesy piece which for me passed the threshold of classics like "Black Velvet". In "Lights Of Austin" Kiya combines the power of musical symmetry with lyrics which encircle you with welcoming visuals. Beguiling and familiar, this song quickly imbeds itself in your psyche and you are very happy with that reaction. The closing track, and only non-Heartwood written song, "Feeling Good" is a completely unique take on a timeless classic. Leaving you satisfied and yet with a strong yearning for more. 

All in all that, "yearning for more" feeling is the strongest reaction with which I can best describe the overall experience of "Bold Swimmer". Obviously my compulsion to hit the replay button won many times. Even while writing this review Kiya Heartwood's "Bold Swimmer" is playing and inspiring. And continues to do so in my mind. My sincere hope is that Kiya Heartwood and "Bold Swimmer" garner the attention and reception deserved. I cannot imagine why it would not. Although in the genre sadly women are sometimes overlooked and not granted the acclamation and respect deserved. Heartwood's talent however demands that same acclimation and respect.
Love Everybody. Write Great Songs. Raise Hell.