Originally created 03/11/00

Sisters break racial barriers with their songs



People used to make fun of the Kimmey sisters -- they are black but sound white.

"Kids want to put you in a category. We have been able to get past that," said Andrea Kimmey-Baca, 21, back home in Nashville, Tenn., on break from Out of Eden's No Turning Back tour.

The sister act, whose Christian-contemporary record sales have passed the half-million mark, typically draws a half black/half white audience, said Scott Franklin, youth minister at New Hope Christian Center in Grovetown. "There's a good intermingling that goes on. We expect to see some racial barriers come down in the name of Jesus."

Out of Eden will headline at New Hope at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Hip hop artists Grits (Grammatical Revolution) and Knowdaverbs (The Syllabus) will share the stage with the sisters.

All three acts record with the same company -- Gotee Records of Brentwood, Tenn., a label started by Todd Collins, Joey Elwood and DC Talk's Toby McKeehan.

Grits, Knowdaverbs and Out of Eden have a similar sound and vision, Ms. Kimmey-Baca said. "That is why we wanted to bring them along with us."

The Kimmey sisters have crossed many boundaries since they sang backup for their mother, pianist DeLise Hall, in Richmond, Va., in the late 1980s.

Lisa Kimmey, now 24, writes the songs. She started writing when she was 5. "It just comes to her. God will put a song in her head, and she will start singing. She would grab us and say, `Sing with me.' She taught us how to harmonize," Ms. Kimmey-Baca said.

Ms. Hall recognized her daughters' potential and moved the family to Nashville in 1990. There the girls landed spots on talent shows and cut demos.

They also lived in a black neighborhood for the first time. "The whole world opened up to us," Ms. Kimmey-Baca said.

Until then, her life had been spent at church or home since she was home-schooled. The children had never been around non-Christian people before. Their parents took those they met into their home, and her stepdad would take them fishing. "We fit in. We became more real," she said.

Each Kimmey sister developed her own style. Lisa Kimmey is classy; Ms. Kimmey-Baca is laid back but trendy; and Danielle Kimmey, 19, is the wild one, Ms. Kimmey-Baca said. The youngest sister hopes to be a fashion designer.

Like other sisters, they had a normal, noisy childhood. But they learned that "I hate you" offstage showed up later onstage.

A chaplain once gave them a valuable piece of advice, she said. "He saw the arguments and the difficulties we had getting along in the van. He told us, `Before you were regular sisters. Now you have to treat each other as sisters in Christ."' They didn't forget.

They got an opportunity to sing for Mr. McKeehan in the early 1990s. When he started Gotee in 1994, theirs was the first group he signed. As long as the sisters could go on tour with him, "Our mother said `yes,"' Ms. Kimmey-Baca said.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 .

In concert

Who: Out of Eden, Grits, Knowdaverbs

Where: New Hope Christian Center, 715 Old Belair Road, Grovetown

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Cost: $10 in advance, $12 at the door, groups of 10 or more, $8

Phone: 868-6410