The Local Honeys – Self-Titled
This collection begins with banjo plucking but the dark, luxuriant atmosphere is thick & pulls you in.
Two young Kentucky ladies pin their melodies down like butterflies to a velvet display board. Jean Ritchie’s “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore,” was just a country song but here it’s revived in a near-Gothic re-telling. Fiddle & banjo are captured & adorned in a blend of reedy/silky vocals. The girls offer an interesting texture between their voices.
“Last Mule In the Holler,” is creative with a tight Appalachian thread woven in its showcase. The duo is slick, shaping their music with lots of mood & instrumental swirls. All wonderfully sung. The tradition they borrow from seeps into the ears & leaves the dust & antiqueness behind. Their voices are expressive, each song rendered with distinguished expertise.
The intense “Dead Horses,” is mannered, sadly beautiful & well-articulated. For some this song may be a dour tune but the way it’s smartly performed it’s more poignant than dour. And instead of singing about big trucks, big hats & tight blue jeans – they sing about horses.
The self-titled The Local Honeys 10-cut CD (Drops July 15-La Honda/Thirty Tigers) was produced by Jesse Ray Welles (guitars/fiddle/mandolin) & the Local Honeys – Linda Jean Stokley (guitar/harmonium) & S. Montana Hobbs (banjo). Some songs are laid back, but each is carefully rendered in a rich tradition akin to Gillian Welch & Iris DeMent. Unlike Welch & DeMent, the duo doesn’t sing with an overtly obvious mountain accent.
The 42-minute LP is reflective of their upbringing in Kentucky (land of bluegrass & Jim Beam). The song “The Ballad of Frank & Billy Buck,” is a solo vocal by Montana Hobbs. “Toadstool” features Linda Jean. Together or solo their voices have clarity, feeling & vitality. Many of their distinguished melodies sound traditional in nature & retain the natural pulse of the mountains. The CD has a lyric insert & the B&W package is well-designed with a no-nonsense attractive image of Linda Jean & Montana.
The striking & memorable “Better Than I Believe,” is a delicious example of what some young artists are creating – not interpreting, but reinventing. There’s a meticulous authenticity at work. “If I Could Quit,” is a dose of lyrical excellence. They add vocal marzipan that’s irresistible. A buoyant banjo plucks with authority & the guitars dazzle.
Musicians featured – Josh Nolan (guitars), Will Phillips (trumpet), Craig Burletic (upright bass) & Rod Elkins (drums). The Local Honey’s are delightful & their affection for horses is admirable. One of the year’s best. Every song’s like finding a different piece of chocolate in a big Valentine’s Heart-Shaped Box. Good music.
Color image: Lila Callie Photography. Purchase & listen @ http://www.thelocalhoneys.com/