Review: Adler & Hearne “To the Heart”

Adler & Hearne “To the Heart”

25 May, 2010 Heath Andrews

Lynn Adler & Lindy Hearne have made a huge step toward bringing folk music back into the spotlight this decade.  Their 2009 album To The Heart is beautiful, tranquil, and sublimely pleasant to listen to.  The stars are clearly Adler & Hearne as their voices are strong when solo, and stronger when in duet.  Adler’s voice is angelic in its tone and delivery while Hearne has a voice akin to the late John Stewart (formerly of the Kingston Trio and later as a solo artist).  It possesses a world-weary tone that speaks from age and experience.

Unlike the aforementioned Kingston Trio and their folk ilk, Adler & Hearne are assisted by a team of musicians that bring an almost orchestral feeling to many of the songs.  Included on the album are Byron House and Dave Pomeroy on bass, Rob Ickes on the dobro, Michael Johnson on classical guitar, Andy Leftwich on fiddle, viola, mandolin and mandola, as well as Ken Lewis on percussion.  Leftwich in particular stands out as a stellar performer since his various string-based instruments draw out much of the beauty contained within Adler & Hearne’s works.

To The Heart‘s opening track, “My East Texas Piney Woods Home,” is an exceptional selection to lead the album.  The title is fairly indicative of the lyrics as Adler & Hearne sing of a beautifully rustic setting that they can call their own.  The loving sincerity in their voices lends a wonderful genuine feeling to the music; it feels very personal, as if they’ve chosen to share this piece of their lives with the listener.  Really, this is one of the album’s biggest strengths.  The themes of love, nature, and God run deep through the songs, like the duo had taken a page out of the John Denver songbook.  And like Denver, their love of these topics is positively radiant.

Lyrically, Adler & Hearne successfully tread the thin line between being passionate and being “preachy.”  Even the best of songwriters can come across too strongly when their passions for nature and spirituality are expressed.  But even on the more pointed tracks, like the Adler sung “A Hundred Years From Now” and Hearne’s “A Celebrated One,” the themes never overpower the music itself.  Then again, this is almost an expectation considering the strength of the wordplay earlier in the album.  “Lookin’ For A Bridge” is a powerfully written lyric with the refrain, “I’m lookin’ for a bridge to get me over you.“  Just that line itself is so well done that it sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the songs, and they pass it.

Despite the overall gentle tempo and sound of the album, there are two distinct “toe-tappers” to be found.  The earlier mentioned “A Hundred Years From Now” manages to work up a groove that’s a bit of an unexpected treat.  And with a title like “Hollerin’ The Hills,” it may be expected for that song to be more up-tempo, and it certainly is.  There are not enough of those moments to consider the album folk/rock, but they show Adler & Hearne would be capable of it if they ever chose to go that route.

Another particularly striking song is the Hearne driven, “Give Me The Pieces.”  The quality of Hearne’s voice is what makes this song such a pleasant experience.  Granted, there’s music being played, but Hearne’s storytelling of a child who turns to his father to pick up the pieces of a broken toy, bicycle, and much later his own life, is enchanting and emotional.  What Adler vocally contributes in harmony and beauty, Hearne contributes in power and presence.  The two make a fantastic pairing in all respects, though it’s the vocal blending that shines the most.  Producer Rick Clark obviously picked up on this and wisely allows it to be upfront in the mixing.

Albums this solid do not get made often enough.  Fans of folk, singer-songwriter, and light country music really should listen to this to experience some gorgeous songs.  Comparisons can be made to some of the previously mentioned artists as well as James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, and Peter, Paul & Mary, but none of them really do justice to this pairing.  The music created on To The Heart feels like a slice of life taken directly from Adler & Hearne, and offered up to enjoy and experience.  Offers this sincere and entertaining should not be turned down.

Review by Heath Andrews