“Goodbye Virginia… 10 hours west to Nashville… I’m looking for a promise I don’t know if I’ll find…” So sing The Truehearts on their terrific second CD, Purgatory Emporium. For a primer on how it feels to uproot yourself, pack your guitar and take all your dreams in a suitcase to Nashville, Tennessee, look no further. The music feels good, with guitars that jangle and shimmer, vocals and harmonies that recall Emmylou, Kelly Willis and Tom Petty, Steve Earle and even The Whites, The Jayhawks and Mary Chapin Carpenter, with an occasional sidelong glance at the Beatles. (They even name-check XTC as an influence.) The words, though, however sweetly sung, don’t shy away from hard truths. “God has his favorites… And God has his forgotten… Pretty sure you know if you’re chosen or you’re nothing… It’s all just a roll of the dice”
The Truehearts’ second roll of that dice is a buoyant ride through Virginia mountains and Tennessee valleys, full of harmonies and hooks to raise a smile, and lyrics that range from love and yearning to dreams and cautionary tales.
Singers, songwriters, alumni of a much-loved theatrical troupe, musicians and partners in life, Debra Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams have been at it in this guise as The Truehearts (formerly The Hummingbyrds) for four years. Hailing from near and around our nation’s capital – he from northern Virginia and she from Baltimore – they made the move to Nashville in 2015. Purgatory Emporium speaks of their journey, and cements them as a jewel in the Americana scene.
They met 10 years ago doing theater back home. “I had quit music for a while and I went into that OTHER lucrative career: acting!” Steve laughs, “And I kept getting cast as the man with a guitar!” He met Debra doing Evita at a little theatre in Maryland, and they hit it off. “Musically we had the same tastes. And we got together to write some theatre, and put together the Dizzy Miss Lizzies Roadside Revue. We wrote and performed three or four shows, culminating in “The Brontes”, which is out on DVD.
“The Brontes” did so well that they took it to New York, but the long hours and constant details needing attention led to burnout. “It was such a production with so many people,” Debra says, “because there's fundraising, even more so than music, and I thought, you know what? I just want to write and play our stuff, so let's simplify everything.” Since they wanted to spend more time together anyway, they did just that, making a demo to help get gigs, which turned out becoming their eponymous first CD – and then they made the move to Nashville.
Expertly produced by Nashville guitar ace, Dave Coleman (with a couple of tracks helmed by Phil Keaggy), the sounds don’t encroach on the chemistry on Steve and Debra, their two acoustic guitars, and her occasional accordion, but Dave throws tasty guitar atmosphere here and there when it fits and keeps the sounds big but spacious. Standouts include the character study of “Eddie” the town genius ne’er do well, the ominous warning of the oncoming storm brewing in “Oh My”, the lovely and ever tuneful “Simple Life”, an elegy about hard choices.
In the CD’s final track, “Photographs” they wrap it all up. “The story’s never right or never wrong… It’s just who sings the song.” The Truehearts are signing the song they’re meant to be. The honesty shines through. Sweet melody and soft urgency make the medicine go down. It’s all a roll of the dice, and this is one they may yet win. ~TOMMY WOMACK
The Truehearts (formerly The Hummingbyrds) are an Americana duo comprised of singer/songwriters Debra Buonaccorsi (vocals, guitar, accordion) & Steve McWilliams (vocals, guitar, mandolin). Their original music is characterized by close harmonies and close ties to the roots of American country and folk music; rich with the sound of wood and steel and stories of the everyman. Their songs are melodic, expressive and muscular, ranging from melancholic ballads to boot-stomping rockabilly.
Buonaccorsi's vocals have drawn comparisons to a wide range of artists from Emmylou Harris to Bonnie Raitt, but her sound and style are still uniquely her own. Her voice is a deep palette of colors and sounds that is both heartfelt and knowing. Debra's guitar and accordion evoke the sounds of the past and bring them to the present.
Mcwilliams heart on his sleeve style of playing and singing recall the best of Springsteen and Earle. Visceral and gritty yet from deep in the soul, Steve can get a room rocking with his driving rhythm guitar or bring it to a hush with his beautiful, raw style of fingerpicking.
Together, with the combination of their unique talents, vocal power and excellent musicianship, Buonaccorsi and McWilliams make musical magic. They bring to mind the tradition of great American songwriting duos of the past… Cash and Carter, Harris and Parsons…. Buonaccorsi and Mcwilliams songs are honest poetry with themes of love, life, death and alienation all wrapped up in a package of sheer musical joy. Songs that seek answers to the same questions that confront us all.
The Truehearts have performed at venues such as The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, The Barns of Wolf Trap, The Iota, The Hamilton (DC), The Family Wash (Nashville), Gypsy Sally's, Jammin' Java, National Cherry Blossom Festival, and many other venues throughout Nashville and the Mid-Atlantic.
As a solo performer, Steve has been nominated for 9 Wammie (Washington Area Music Association) Awards, and has recorded and released 5 critically acclaimed albums. Steve has toured the United States and Europe and has also written and performed music for The Kennedy Center, Imagination Stage, Florida Studio Theater, Ford's Theater, and Arena Stage. His music has been heard on radio throughout the US and Europe. He has charted in Ireland, and Italy.
Debra is a songwriter, a poet, a playwright, a musician and a perpetual student of all things art, music and language. She arrived at her current destination in Americana music by an unexpected route. She's a classically trained instrumentalist and singer who also happens to have a theatre degree from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and a resume full of professional acting (Arena Stage, Ford's Theater, Signature Theater), singing ( The Doc Scantlin Orchestra), and performing experience along with critical acclaim as a playwright and songwriter.
The duo began writing together in 2008 with the creation of their Helen Hayes Award winning, genre-bending rock band meets vaudevillian theatre troupe, Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue, performing at the NYMF Festival in NYC, the Kennedy Center, Capital Fringe and packing houses throughout the Mid Atlantic area. DMLRR has written and produced 4 plays and released 3 soundtrack albums. All have received critical acclaim.