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8 p.m. May 16
The Ark, Ann Arbor
Don’t count on Lover’s Lane selling accordions anytime soon. But there’s something about that instrument that Miriam Davidson can’t refuse.
“It kind of vibrates against you,” she says, without offering Between The Lines even the slightest clue that her remark is sexually laced.
After all, a perverted comment like that would be unexpected from the Southerner, who’s rehearsing in her home with her musical-mate Kiya Heartwood. Both Kentucky-based artists orchestrate Wishing Chair, a roots folk duo that’s like the trail mix of music.
The two out women met at a guitar camp in Toronto 12 years ago. Davidson, 50, ran a program; Heartwood, 46, was teaching. After meeting, they realized their paths, though they never crossed, weren’t too far apart. “It turns out that she grew up in Kentucky, and I was living in Lexington,” Davidson says.
Now they live just minutes from each other, which makes bracing for extended-weekend tours more painless. The business side of touring – booking, marketing and accounting – is handled at Davidson’s, whereas Heartwood’s in-home studio is used for recording and tech rehearsals as they prep for their coast to coast, 150-plus gigs a year.
“They are all over the country ’cause you can’t just play in the same place all the time and expect to make a living,” Davidson notes, before laughing: “There are only so many times that a person in your hometown is gonna come see you and pay money over and over again.”
As they meander through the states, sometimes getting derailed after failing to follow their MapQuest directions, they don’t have to squabble over who gets control of the CD player – they soak in some audio books, trans and Cuban-flavored cuts.
At one time the women also shared a romantic spark, but now they strictly share a musical fellowship: Davidson is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist; Heartwood is the primary guitar player and songwriter.
“Things change,” Davidson says about their enamored link. She, like a public speaker without any cue cards, stumbles over her words as she explains whether their severed love story put a damper on their musical career.
“I don’t know,” she starts and stammers. “I don’t know that I thought about that a lot. She (Heartwood) may have a different answer to that, but I think people just change and need different things from different kinds of relationships. We’re best friends and we work together great and we want each other to be happy.”
After Davidson met Heartwood, an already accomplished songwriter and lead vocalist for the late-’80s band Stealin’ Horses, in Toronto, the women launched Wishing Chair. The name derives from a legend that alludes to a dream-making rock formation in Northern Ireland called the Giant’s Causeway.
“We kind of designed the band, not to emulate an Irish band, but there’s a similarity in that a lot of the Irish bands, they don’t have a line between traditional music, pop music, classical music. They don’t care, they play,” Heartwood says. “And we wanted to do an American version of that.”
Pigeonholing Wishing Chair’s style would be like assuming Britney Spears will resurrect herself by befriending country. The Kentucky duo’s down-home sound is based in roots and roll, but they tinker with quirky melodies, soulful confessions and traditional folk.
As Davidson notes, though they work their asses off rehearsing their ditties for live shows, they have to remember the vitals, both on the road and in the studio, to keep their career in tip-top shape: sleep, exercise, eat healthy. She snickers. “We’re not 20 years old, kicking around in the van anymore.”