Heart and soul

CHRIS CHILTON
Last updated 14:27 06/06/2012
The Heartleys
CJ TOMLINS/Supplied

SOUTHERN STARS: The Heartleys, Taylor Cairns, left, and Kayla Martin in full flight at their album launch in Gore.

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It's true. Miles make the musician.

For all the dazzling promise young Gore duo The Heartleys showed when they released their debut album three years ago, the one thing that was missing was experience.

Call it dirt under the fingernails. Call it gravel in the tank. However you define the mojo that enables songwriters to dig deep and sing from the soul, The Heartleys have got it now.

Since we saw them last, Kayla Martin and Taylor Cairns have won all manner of awards, had three consecutive country hit singles in Australia, performed at the other end of the Earth and shifted to Melbourne. Their comfort zone in Gore must feel like a lifetime ago.

It would certainly appear so from the lyrics of their new songs.

They released their long-awaited second album, Talk To Me, on home turf at the Croydon last week, a triumphant return in front of a big and appreciative crowd who packed out the Heartland venue to see the Gore girls made good.

From the moment they hit the stage with their slick backing band of Southland session musos, The Heartleys showed just how far they've developed their craft.

They were polished and animated. They engaged the audience and each other. Their harmonies were straight and true.

And, it kind of goes without saying, they looked a million bucks.

In between songs, they chatted about where the lyrics had come from. Refreshingly, despite the glam outfits, they hadn't lost any of their downhome charm.

Martin spoke candidly about the bout of depression she conquered in the past year, which inspired the haunting ballad Pretend To Be.

Cairns reminded the young starstruck girls in the audience that, while boyfriends come and go, your besties really are forever.

The pair allowed their emotions to simmer just under the surface as they sang their heartfelt ode to home, Southland. Cairns nearly choked up on it.

And they sizzled with venom while performing the album title track, a no-holds-barred slap in the face for anyone who dissed them behind their backs.

There was plenty of sass and attitude in this performance, and Cairns showed she has finally found her growl.

It was a beautiful thing to hear.

The scratch band of Arun O'Connor (lead guitar), Peter Cairns (rhythm and banjo), Mike Hood (dobro), Matt Hantler (bass), Aaron Ives (drums) and Vanessa Harvey (fiddle) gave The Heartleys' rockier set of songs a solid liftoff, with O'Connor getting ample opportunity to layer his classy riffs throughout.

As a token of their appreciation for the hometown support they were shown when they were starting out, The Heartleys invited some talented local youngsters to support them.

Lively fiddle duo Tangled Strings, Molly Johnson, Ella McDowall and Abby Gutschlag, Shannah Corcoran and Mallory Cooper and Claudia LaHood all revelled in their few minutes on stage, and Jenny Mitchell showed everyone where the next southern country star is rising with her own moving and eloquent song, Six Strings.

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- The Southland Times

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