Stealin' Horses Stealin' Hearts

By Dallas Embry

In 1985, Lexington, Ky.-based rock band Radio Cafe put an ad in The Lexington Herald seeking a drummer. Kipana Terry, one-time DJ in Barrow, Alaska, and employee in a book warehouse, answered that ad and met Kiya Heartwood for the first time.

Heartwood, who had been washing dishes and working in the library as a library science student, had recently taken a tape of the band to Nashville to see what interest she could stir up.

Right after Terry joined the group, the "two guys dropped out," and she and Heartwood gave up their day jobs to devote themselves full time to their music.

The day after they made this decision, Heartwood received a phone call from The Castle studio in Nashville inviting them to come there and write.

They decided to change the name of the band to reflect the rites of passage they felt they were going through by going into music full time.

When adolescent native American boys were ready to prove their manhood and thus become braves, they would steal horses from neighboring tribes to prove their courage; therefore "Stealin' Horses" became the new name for the Heartwood/Terry band, and the rest, as they say, is history.

They have recorded an album on the Arista label, have had a video of "Turnaround" on MTV, and have appeared with Smithereens, Johnny Cash, Richard Marx, and The Outlaws (among others) in concert.

Robert K. Oermann, writing in the Nashville paper The Tennessean, said of Kiya Heartwood: "... one of the most remarkable rock singer/songwriters to appear in recent years. Her full-of-imagery lyrics and haunting voice are the hallmarks of the Stealin' Horses sound."

I agree wholeheartedly, although I would remove the "rock" qualification from the statement.

When they appeared on April 29 at Uncle Pleasant's I was very impressed with singer/songwriter Heartwood's lead vocals and acoustic guitar, and with Terry's drumming and back-up vocals.

These two women can rock out with the best of them, as they proved with the songs "Turnaround," "Gotta Get A Letter," "Where All the Rivers Run" and the boogie tune "Rain," which begins, "Pretty boys in pretty cars that disappear by morning/Three-chord songs on old guitars that sound just like a storm."

"Dyin' By the Gun" is an '80s song about a love bandit, which has the feel of Warren Zevon about it.

My personal favorite is "The Ballad of the Pralltown Cafe," which is a tribute to a place where "High school kids and punks/Leaning on the wall/Saturday night was happening/Oh the glory of it all," until "town officials shut it down/For being too loud and black" so now "There'll be no rockin' in the cafe tonight."

With just acoustic guitar for accompaniment, this ballad really showcased Heartwood's lovely voice and the goose-pimple-creating vocal harmonies of Terry and Heartwood together.

I'm sure they will be back in the area and I heartily recommend giving them a listen.

Londa Crenshaw, one of my long-time favorite local performers, opened the show, but the sound volume was such that her natural dynamism and enthusiasm were lost somewhere in the sound board, which is unusual because when complaints about the sound at Uncle P's are heard, the complainers usually say it was too loud.