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CD Review: Underdog Wishing Chair

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Quick, name me a women folk duo. What did you come up with, The Indigo Girls; no one else? Well let me add another name to that very short list – Wishing Chair. What you've never heard of them? Well guess what, until I'd heard their latest CD Underdog neither had I. And if this disc is anything to go by, they've been doing just fine without us and we've been missing out on something great.

Who and what are Wishing Chair? Well in the simplest terms they are a folk-roots partnership made up of Miriam Davidson and Kiya Heartwood based out of Kentucky but seemingly touring all the time. Since 1995 they have produced six CD's including Underdog which was released in 2005.

It's easy to fall into the trap of seeing the names of two women in a folk band and steeling yourself for oh so serious songs, the type young intellectual university women will sit around listening to deep into the night and discuss seriously. It's perfectly possible this could happen to Wishing Chair, but the rest of us can also enjoy their music and their songs.

It's not that I'm dissing the Indigo Girls here, it’s just sometimes you feel like you have to belong to some sort of club or society before you're allowed to "really understand" them. It's like they've been claimed as the exclusive preserve of one group of people while the rest of us are too insensitive to get the message.

No one is going to claim Wishing Chair as their own because this music is far too independent and free spirited to allow it to be tied down that way. Sure Miriam and Kiya sing about political issues and pour emotions into their material, but it feels like underneath it there is a huge amount of laughter waiting to escape.
wishing chair
Unlike so many issue-oriented groups you never get the impression the Miriam and Kiya have an axe to grind or are making any claims to moral superiority because of their opinions. They sing about the things they believe in and what they care about – true enough – but what makes Country and Folk music interesting is when the performers can put their hearts into the song and music.

On "One Real Song" they sing about what keeps them going on the road, in the studio, and in music. Anybody who has ever tried to create something that makes it all worthwhile can identify with the songs they sing. It's about the search for the perfect written word or the perfect picture as much as it is the search for the perfect song.

It's not often a song about a wedding can be termed a political song, although I'm sure incidences will continue in the near future where songs about two people loving each other and being joined together, like "Outlaw Wedding" will become the norm. But I think they are going to have a hard time living up to the standards established by it. Not only does it deal with issue of same sex marriages in a subtle manner but it's also a wonderful endorsement of marriage and family.

For those of you who are supportive of the war in Afghanistan and the current administration's foreign policy, the song you are least likely to enjoy is "Bully Circus." What I found particularly appealing about this song aside from the lyrics, which are far more intelligent then usual, is the wonderful feel they have created with the music in this song.

Circus music has a very particular style. If whoever is performing starts to distort it, even slightly, it begins to sound awfully sinister and makes whatever one is singing about dangerous and evil. What truly separates "Bully Circus" from other protest songs, is the singers do more then just whine about how bad the government is, but offer some idea that they can and will do something, where they are able, to make a difference.

Social responsibility shouldn't be a novelty coming from people who sing about it, but so many of them are of the 'do as I say not as I do' attitude finding a sincere voice that just wants to do something positive is a refreshing change. There's also something about a country music protest song that is much more effective than other genres. Maybe it's because I associate country music so much with pseudo patriotic stuff that anytime we hear someone using the genre for a protest song it becomes all the more potent for it's familiarity of style but difference of content.

Miriam Davidson and Kiya Heartwood as Wishing Chair are a revelation of both style and content. For those who like their folk music with a country twang, and their country music to be about more than cars, truck drivers, and pain Wishing Chair's new disc, Underdog is the answer to your search. Not since Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, and Ferron joined together have I heard as powerful and intelligent music from a woman's folk/country group.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site He has been writing for since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.