The Toy Hearts
Since cutting their first record in 2006, UK based Bluegrass/Americana group The Toy Hearts, have been one of the hottest acts emerging out of the burgeoning acoustic scene. The band is fronted by sisters Hannah and Sophia Johnson, who bring both a feminine, and British perspective, to an essentially American music. However, they keep one foot in the traditional camp by employing their father Stewart on banjo and dobro, while non family members on double bass and fiddle complete the 5 piece line up.
Their reputation as an exciting and dynamic live act has developed along with their songwriting prowess, culminating in the national release of ‘Femme Fatale’ in October 2010, which was recorded in Nashville earlier that year. The album marks this band as one to watch, demonstrating the Birmingham based trio’s songwriting abilities, as the album moves from hot-club swing, to country love song, to bluegrass instrumental. The Toy Hearts have toured through the UK, the USA and Europe and can count new rockabilly Queen ‘Imelda May,’ and veteran broadcaster Bob Harris amongst their fans.
‘Fronted by sisters Hannah and Sophia Johnson, there are sweet harmonies and commendable forays into hot jazz and old-time swing.’ - Duncan Warwick, Uncut Magazine, Jan 2011.
‘Support was from the UK’s Toy Hearts who have moved away from a more bluegrassy sound, almost out-Hotclubbed Hot Club on their latest release and proved to be well suited to support Austin’s finest exponents of Western Swing and Gypsy Jazz. With similar influences, Sister’s Hannah (mandolin) and Sophia (guitar) were a delight, highly personable, and proved they have what it takes for some serious cross over potential without compromising their music.’ - Michael Hingston, Live Review for Country Music People, Dec 2010.
‘Style and substance are admirable attributes for any band. But couple them with hard work and commitment and you’re onto something good. The Toy Hearts have all the bases covered and Femme Fatale, recorded in Nashville, is a fine document of the Johnson family’s winning formula.’ - David Kushar, Spiralearth.co.uk, Nov 2010.
‘The Captain is almost an answer song to Kasey Chambers track of the same name. The protagonist of the Chamber’s song has low self-esteem and is thankful to be able to surrender responsibility to a partner, whereas the feisty Toy Hearts song is about refusing to be dominated… The Toy Hearts have absorbed the culture and songwriting of acoustic American music, but their music and their singing has a definitely British accent.’
- Michael Hingston, Country Music People, Nov 2010.
Honestly, listening to opening track Good For Me is enough to make Po Girl throw in the towel and work diners… Deftly balancing swinging hot club jazz (Tequila And High Heels with its dazzling dobro), old school Western swing (She Got There First) and sprightly bluegrass breakdowns (The Beck Is Rising) with the folk roots balladry of the heartachingly lovely The Captain, they fully deserves to be the first British act nominated for a bluegrass Grammy. We should consider ourselves lucky, Nashville didn’t confiscate their passports so they couldn’t ever leave!‘ - Mike Davis, netrhythms.co.uk, Oct 2010.
‘As well as producing quite possibly the finest and most authentic-sounding blend of Americana of any UK act, The Toy Hearts possess a trump card in the heart-melting voice of Hannah Johnson… With ‘Femme Fatale’ as a calling card, the UK Americana crown is The Toy Hearts’ for the taking’. - Sean McGhee, R2 Rock and Reel Magazine, Oct 2010.
‘The vocals are pure and the musicianship is top-class… This group is going from strength to strength and I would recommend this album to all bluegrass fans’. - David Knowles, Maverick Magazine, Oct 2010.
‘If bluegrass is not your thing, and this reviewer would be the first to hold his hand up, then leave your pre conceptions at the door and embrace this album for what it is – a great collection of songs by a great band (from Birmingham).‘ - Americana UK, 2008.
‘This is an outstanding album from a British group and undoubtedly one of the best I’ve heard this year and is highly recommended.‘
- Country Music File, 2008.
‘The overall sound is excellent, Hannah’s vocal’s quite superb and Sophia’s guitar playing stunning. The album has a tremendous vitality about it and the elements of western swing that creep in here and there only add to the variety of a band who are as good to look at as they are to listen to.‘ - Venue Magazine, 2008.
‘The Toy Hearts are a family band from Birmingham, England, that not only play good bluegrass, but also take it beyond the realm of traditional bluegrass mimicry by producing original and contemporary fare.’ - Bluegrass Unlimited, 2007.