Irresistible harmonies, top-notch songs, and tangible exhilaration make The Kinleys one of the year’s outstanding debuts. Twin sisters, Heather and Jennifer Kinley, deliver music steeped in tradition and yet as universally appealing and contemporary as today’s country has become.
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Graced with the keening wail of fiddles, yet given an up-to-the-minute acoustic edge, and then blazing with rocking fire, Just Between You And Me, mirroring its creators’ fresh-faced charm, is Nashville at its most immediate--the very sound of now. "We wanted to do songs that were fresh, but they had to be songs that paid homage to the true sounds of country," Heather says of the set of potential classics the album boasts.
Penning five of the record’s tunes with some of the industry’s finest songwriters and carefully picking other material that reflected their personalities, the aim, Jennifer says, was to "find something that really moved us. Because we hope if it moves us, there’s a good chance it’ll move other people, too." Heather sums up, "We simply poured our hearts into this music."
"We really have to thank our parents," Heather says, of the amazing diversity of styles that grace the duo’s maiden voyage: "They listened to everything--old-time music, songs of the fifties, country and the Andrew Sisters. Our father has a wonderful voice; he sounds a bit like Bing Crosby. And our mom’s a real ham--she loves to perform and always urged us to play for people, whether it was family gatherings or for folks at nursing homes when we were young."
Growing up in the City of Brotherly Love, the twins grooved at the age of eight to the Grease soundtrack, ("She was Rizzo, I was Olivia Newton John," Jennifer laughingly recalls), before turning to country. "It was discovering the Everly Brothers and their country roots that did it," Jennifer remembers. "Those incredible harmonies, and hearing about them starting out with Chet Atkins, and singing ‘Bye, Bye, Love’ at the Opry." A sense of kinship with the Judds followed thereafter ("We loved the way they sang together").
Those formative years, Jennifer says, were crucial in leading these native Philadelphians to Nashville: "I remember watching awards shows and realizing how much country musicians appreciated their fans. They conveyed such a strong American feeling. And I thought ‘If I could become part of that, I’d be honored.’ I love what country stands for." So, at the ripe age of 19, the young women were moving to Music City to pursue their dream.
"It was scary, but exciting," Heather reminisces, "We spent nights waitressing and days working on songwriting. We crashed parties, went to writers’ showcases, spent a year at the Courtyard Cafe doing covers, Jennifer on piano, me on guitar. We were growing and learning." In that seven-year apprenticeship, the pair were searching always for "the one song" that would establish their identity. Co-writing "Just Between You And Me" with Russ Zavitson and his wife Debbie, they found that "dream demo," and the labels came calling. In a matter of months, Epic and The Kinleys formed a perfect match.
Sisters in spirit as well as flesh, the Kinleys today bring a rare solidarity to their music making--and remain each other’s biggest fans. Jennifer on Heather: "When I saw our video, I kept getting distracted by Heather’s singing. I respect so much the richness of her voice, and she’s so creative on guitar. Without her determination to become a singer and performer and writer, we wouldn’t have this album. I love her creative spark." Heather on Jennifer: "I used to think that Jennifer was the real singer. She has this incredible range. I listen to the notes she hits and how beautifully she hits them, and it amazes me every day of my life. But what I like best is how we sing together. She’s so intuitive, she knows me so well, and when we sing, it’s almost as though we can read each other’s mind."
Now, with the release of their debut album, fans of well-crafted songs and soaring harmonies will be able to read these sisters’ musical minds. They’ll hear songs of love and yearning, pride and understanding. They’ll hear music fashioned from two sisters’ hard work, dreams and innate skills. That hard work, however, has paid off in an album of effortless delight. "Just Between You And Me" sums up the prevailing spirit. "Our hearts and souls are in that song," Jennifer says. In that song and the rest of their stellar debut one finds the Kinleys’ hearts and souls . . . and some extraordinary music.
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