Ever since The Judds called it a day in 1991, there’s been a void in country music: no top-selling female duo.
The Kinleys aim to change that.
The twins from Philadelphia have a single, “Just Between You and Me,” bolting up the charts. Their first effort, “Please,” made it to No. 7 and earned them a Grammy nomination.
That gives The Kinleys a head start on The Lynns, twin daughters of country legend Loretta Lynn. Their highly anticipated record is due out in February.
Unlike The Lynns, whose name attracted immediate attention, Heather and Jennifer Kinley had to work to get noticed.
“There’s a down side to being twins - having people think we’re this cutesy kind of act,” Heather said. “We knew we had a lot of work to do to get people to take us seriously.”
The 27-year-old sisters moved to Nashville after completing high school. For seven years they worked as waitresses, did a lounge act and crashed music industry events in pursuit of a record deal.
They often could be seen working the room at parties on Music Row. Eventually, they started landing some higher-profile jobs, like singing the national anthem at a Vanderbilt University football game.
“We never wanted to be obnoxious, just get noticed,” Jennifer said.
Recording studio owner Russ Zavitson and songwriter Tony Haselden noticed, and they got the attention of record executives looking for acts to challenge Brooks & Dunn - the only active superstar duo in country music.
With help from Zavitson and his wife, Debbie, The Kinleys finished writing the single “Just Between You and Me.” Epic Records heard the song and offered them a contract in 1996.
The twins were signed by Fitzgerald-Hartley, the powerhouse management company that also guides the careers of Vince Gill, Clint Black and Patty Loveless.
Zavitson and Haselden produced the “Just Between You and Me” CD with recording engineer Peter Greene. The album by the same title came out in September.
The Grammy nomination for “Please” was the twins’ first major recognition within the music industry. The single is up for best country performance by a duo or group with vocal, competing with songs by veterans Alabama, Diamond Rio, Alison Krauss and Union Station and The Mavericks.
“We are so thrilled,” Jennifer said. “We were just shaking and crying happy tears. We immediately called our parents, and we all started crying again.”
On “Please” and the rest of “Just Between You and Me,” The Kinleys show some of the same strengths as Naomi and Wynonna Judd. Most obvious are the close harmonies.
The songs are catchy and cater more to adults than the tunes of teeny-bopper idols Mindy McCready and Shania Twain.
The Kinleys’ songs range from the standard love sentiments of the first two singles to more meaty fare, like the tough-love anthem “Contradiction.”
On the mildly risque “Dance in the Boat,” the twins sing: “I know a good time when I see one.
“And when I’m in the mood I can even be one.”
This year, The Kinleys say their good times will come from hard work. They spent much of 1997 visiting radio stations to promote “Please” and are ready to hit the road in 1998. They’ll open shows for Clint Black and Trace Adkins from March until June.
If their performances bring comparisons to The Judds, that’s fine with The Kinleys.
“If we get half as far as they did, I’d be thrilled,” Heather said.
MEMO: See related story under the headline: Kinleys breaktakingly good