Reviews for The Truehearts' 2017 release "Purgatory Emporium"
The Daily Country
"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 second CD, Purgatory Emporium which documents the duo's - life partners Debra Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams - move from the Virginia area to Nashville on a ten track collection that is awash with jangly guitars, bouyant melodies, pristine harmonies, and heartfelt, relatable lyrics.
One of the album's standout tracks, "Simple Life," is an honest look at the difficult choices we make in life - and the questions that accompany them.
"Maybe I should have chosen a simpler life
Maybe I should have chosen sunnier skies
Wish that I could see through different eyes
Maybe a simple life is just a lie"
The Alternate Root
The Truehearts (from the album Purgatory Emporium)
"Love is for sale at Purgatory Emporium. The album is the recent release from Nashville, Tennessee duo, The Truehearts. The pair set up marketplace stalls for each song, displaying matters of the heart that put an ominous rhythm under “Oh My” as clouds gather around its lonely character while wet weather falls on the choices found in “Simple Life”, and “The Mountain” rises up on sharp angles of chords and beats. The Truehearts gather tales on Purgatory Emporium, staging the tales with defined characters who purposefully accept their fates in “Roll of the Dice”, willfully trust their own intuition with “Working on My Soul”, and hold on to the good luck of the present as they rip pages from the past for “Better Now”.
Life partners and bandmates Debra Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams have been together as a couple for ten years and making music as The Truehearts for four years. The pair found themselves growing tired of careers in musical theatre with a project that took them to New York City. A decision was made to draw the curtains on big production to focus on writing music for themselves. A move to Nashville came after making a demo in NYC. Purgatory Emporium puts Dave Coleman in the producer’s seat who lends his guitar work to the album. The Truehearts bid “Goodbye, Virginia” on a jangly bounce and take “Photograph” to the realization that you cannot rewrite life as the tale floats over a dreamy Americana soundscape as Purgatory Emporium finds a woman stuck in the moment and trapped by her mistakes in “She Waits”."
The TrueHearts latest release "Songs for Spike"
There’s just something about 2019 that makes this the year of Americana duos, especially male-female tandems and partners-for-life couples. Already we’ve had releases from Mandolin Orange, Shovels & Rope, Silver Lake 66, ESOEBO, and next week we’ll be hearing from Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis and, at long last, Buddy and Julie Miller. (probably missed some in that list too). Each of these duos certainly have their merits, and the bigger names may cause some to pay less attention to duos like the Truehearts. Do not fall into that trap. Songs for Spike runs the gamut from raw to visceral to glorious and even tender. No two tracks sound alike. The use of guest musicians to change up the sound is brilliant. Producer-guitarist Dave Coleman brings his A game as usual. In short, this is a killer album
Steve McWilliams and Debra Buonaccorsi are the Truehearts. They relocated to East Nashville from the DC/Baltimore area a few years ago as the Hummingbyrds and released a terrific, but largely under the radar album called Purgatory Emporium. Songs for Spike is their first under their new moniker and it’s an auspicious beginning. Debra sings, plays acoustic guitar and keyboards while Steve handles acoustic and electric leads along with Coleman on baritone guitar. Brian Hinchliffe (bass) and Pete Pulkrabek (drums) hold down the rhythm section for cameos from Richard Bailey on banjo (Steeldrivers) and Paul Niehaus on pedal steel (Calexico).
The opening “Won’t It Be Something” features a two-piece horn section for a blaring, exuberant sound that never reappears. “Sunshine and Violets,” like the former, has glorious choruses though and maintains the high energy of the former. Then comes the album’s centerpiece, driven by Bailey’s banjo, “PFC Frankie Walker,” with his nickname “Spike.” Its up-tempo minor key groove is the backdrop for a World War 11 story where the character Steve’s mother was 15 and Frankie was 18. He shipped out, went ashore on D-Day+1 and was killed two months later. This, like several others, perhaps threading as the theme of the album – dealing with the cards you’re dealt in life.
”Manzelle Marie” carries that Bo Diddley beat with another ebullient chorus. “Hey Hey” has an infectious reggae beat that keeps the song rolling steadily along until the chorus (Wow! they are good with those) rocks into another gear. “Let It Sing” is an ethereal folk song leading into “52nd Street” that rocks and shakes you with its jangling guitars. Hints of Petty, McMurtry…whatever it’s down and dirty and feels good. “Late July” features a memorable guitar pattern and offers some calm as does the piano ballad “Goodbye,” with Debra in the lead, giving the album its tender farewell.
This is as eclectic as any album can get but somehow it all hangs together because it’s so well thought out, arranged, and brilliantly executed. It’s not just a harmonious blending of voices; it’s that and the blending of so many styles that hit on a wide range of emotions too. Other bigger name duos will undoubtedly earn coveted awards, but the Truehearts are likely more deserving. This album is several cuts above the rest.
Take Effect Reviews
Formerly known as the Hummingbyrds, these days Steve McWilliams and Debra Buonaccorsi are The Truehearts, and their Americana sounds are at an all time high where members of Calexico and Steeldrivers are on board.
“Won’t It Be Something” starts the album with warm rootsy rock that’s horn friendly, and “Sunshine And Violets” follows with a pretty duet of memorable folk-rock and an irresistible chorus. Elsewhere, banjo acrobatics infiltrate the upbeat “PFC Frankie Walker”, while “Mamzelle Marie” recruits spirited guitars for a retro-rocker that’s plenty frisky.
The second half of the album offers the soothing balladry of “Let It Sing”, where Buonaccorsi’s vocals soar high, the ultra melodic and jangly “32nd Street”, and the emotive, gentler sensibilities of “Late July”. The album ends on “Goodbye”, a beautiful display of dynamic interplay with Debra steering the ship.
Now residing in Nashville, this D.C./Baltimore duo display a superb formula of vocal harmonies, varied instrumentation and playful pop ideas in their country and folk spirit that’s impossible not to enjoy.
Travels well with: Steve Earle & The Dukes- Terraplane; Elvis Costello- Almost Blue
The Truehearts showcase their rock inspired versatility and flexibility on their new album, Songs for Spike, with a wide range of styles. The popular East Nashville duo Debra Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams were joined by producer Dave Coleman for this one, with Brian Hinchliffe on bass, Pete Pulkrabek on drums, and featuring cameos by Robert Gay and Diego Vasquez respectively on trumpet and trombone, Richard Bailey on banjo and Paul Niehaus on pedal steel. Debra Buonaccorsi is the keys, acoustic guitar and vocal anchor with Steve McWilliams on acoustic and electric guitar and vocals too. The freshness of their vocal harmonies and the rock energy permeating the duo’s musical decisions are a landmark apparent throughout the album as they pivot though different styles.
The opening song “Won’t It Be Something” is a rockabilly number with Gay and Vasquez on brass, and launches the project way up high — high energy, that is.
The duo steers into a little heartland rock on “Sunshine and Violets” and then morphs into the bluegrass “PFC Frankie Walker” with Richard Bailey on banjo.
“Mamzelle Marie” is a bouncy riveting homage to African claver rhythms (think Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” (and the crowd at Grateful Dead shows stomping out the rhythm long after the song ended), or “Hand Jive”).
“Hey Hey” takes a turn into another rhythmic variation with a groovy funky style. And by the time you get to “Let it Sing” you have a vocal centered, soaring anthemic number. And then “Late July” brings us into the psychedelic realm.
The summer season is upon us and you may already find yourself seeking just the right summer music mixtape to carry you through all the gatherings. With Songs For Spike, you’ve got a ready made party mix by the talented Truehearts. Check it out here: http://www.thetruehearts.com
Don and Sheryl's Blues Blog
The Truehearts–Steve McWilliams and Debra Buonaccorsi–originally hailed from the Baltimore/DC area, but came to Music City a few years ago as The Hummingbyrds. Their latest set, and first as The Truehearts, is “Songs For Spike,” with Dave Coleman producing, at Howard’s Apartment in East Nashville.
This set is full of highlights. Leading off, Steve sings of “what could’ve been, if I’d only played the game,” “Won’t It Be Something,” with a definitive Petty vibe. “PFC Frankie Walker” is one of our favorites, and perhaps is the set’s tour de force. It is a banjo-driven tale of an 18-year old Pennsylvania soldier who meets with tragedy after the June 1944 Normandy Invasion, with the somber lyric, “Mama, I don’t want to die this way.” “Hey Hey” is by far the most unique cut on the album. Debra is on lead vocal, and this song is damn near “reggae-punk(!)” Here, mankind is described as “specks of cosmic dust,” and she sings the verse over a reggae-fied beat before the sonic blast of grungy guitars drive the chorus! Debra offers up a quieter anthem of empowerment with “don’t let the Devil steal your song—Let It Sing,” while Steve is on vocal on the time-jumping swing of a “honeymoon beyond the Milky Way,” featuring celestial pedal steel from Paul Niehaus. These two were our other favorites.
“Songs For Spike” is an excellent slice of Americana from start to finish from The Truehearts. It’s full of clever, compelling stories, set over a quite varied menu of musical styles! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.
Once known as The Hummingbyrds, The Truehearts are a Nashville-based pair of performers, Debra Buonaccorsi (vocals, keyboards, and acoustic guitar) and Steve McWilliams (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar). The dueting duo started working together in 2008.
Their rockin’ resume includes performances at The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, The Barns of Wolf Trap, The Family Wash, Gypsy Sally’s, The Hamilton in DC, The Iota, Jammin’ Java, the National Cherry Blossom Festival and others. Their signature sound is an eclectic assimilation of multiple music genres including (but not necessarily limited to) Americana, country, modern and traditional folk, and rock ‘n’ roll.
This album explores such subjects as love, life, death, and even alienation. The tuneful twosome is backed by co-producer Dave Coleman (baritone guitar and percussion), Brian Hinchliffe (bass), and Pete Pulkrabek (drums).
This ten-track album of all original material is off to a good start with the album opener “Won’t it be Something.” It’s got a slight retro feel which could be explained by a familiar descending chord progression that some critics compare to something by Merle Travis or the Kinks. It features Robert Gay (trumpet) and Diego Vasquez (trombone).
“Sunshine and Violets” is a fun song that also includes familiar elements. Some say it is reminiscent to something by Aimee Mann and praise the vocal work. Whatever it is, it works.
The more countrified cut “PFC Frankie Walker” is the song from which the album title was culled. It’s an upbeat banjo-based song-story about young PFC Frankie “Spike” Walker. According to the press release, during the Second World War, McWilliams’ mom dated Walker.
Walker “shipped out, went ashore D-Day . . . and was killed 2 months later.” The track is meant to focus on “the struggle with the cards you’re dealt.” This is actually a recurring theme here which thus makes the entire CD “songs for Spike.” The Steeldrivers’ Richard Bailey appears on banjo.
They change direction with “Mamzelle Marie” which is reminiscent of something by Bo Diddley. It moves and takes you along for the ride.
By now their signature sound is solid and yet obviously flexible. Notice the reggae vibe in “Hey Hey” as well as the effective chorus.
“Let it Sing” is perfect for slow dancing. It is somehow sweet, sad, and sexy all at the same time. It features Calexico’s Paul Niehaus on steel guitar.
“32nd Street” picks up the pace again. It’s got a tinge of Texas rock to it which makes it stand alone. Also included is “Late July.” It’s an early fave of the critics perhaps due in part to the guitar work.
“Milky Way” is another fun, light number that works with the rest of the material and yet has its own identity. Niehaus encores on steel guitar.
For reasons both obvious and not, “Goodbye” is the perfect choice for the closing cut. It’s slightly sad and yet has a beauty of its own.
Overall, the album contains cuts that are melodic, expressive, and reminiscent of material by Tom Petty, an Americanized XTC or even early Elvis Costello. The tracks are personalized presentations of universal subjects. So pick up The Truehearts’ Songs For Spike; put it on your CD player and just “Let it Sing.”
TRUEHEARTS/Songs for Spike: Americana that blows open the ears and doors so firmly you really won't know what to do with it. Transplanted to Nashville from DC, there's a boat load of singer/songwriter and folkie moves at it's core---but then they add the special sauce full of mash ups from all around the horn. Soulful white people that have been honing their chops for quite a while under various names, they really pull it together here making a set that makes you sit up and take notice. Well done.