My review of Front Country’s second album has been posted at Lonesome Road Review.
I am surprised to find that I hadn’t reviewed their previous album Sake of the Sound, although I did write Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman’s album in a rather long-winded piece written during the fall of 2013. Just because of the nature of the albums, I prefer Sake of the Sound to Other Love Songs, but this second album is very strong.
Many years ago and as part of a side conversation during a bluegrass jam, an acquaintance and I traded thoughts about the possibilities of mixing elements of bluegrass, specifically the acoustic instrumentation built around five instruments, and rock and roll. This was post-O, Brother and around the time OCMS was starting to break. We decided that there had to be a market for acoustic rock ‘n’ roll, that is music that thematically and topically fit closer to rock and pop than it did bluegrass or country, but which was played on acoustic instruments while embracing elements of the folk and ‘grass traditions.
Front Country’s Other Love Songs might have been imagining.
The Honeycutters Me Oh My Organic Records
Bands work hard to capture their music within a memorable tagline, and mostly these are ignored by all but the most desperate of writers. Seldom does the message resonate past the top of a webpage.
The exception appears to be that of The Honeycutters because “Appalachian Honky Tonk” fair nails the head.
The Asheville, NC quintet released their third long player this spring, and as happens it took a while to percolate to the top of the Fervor Coulee desk. I did listen to it a couple or three times upon receipt, but must have been distracted by something shiny elsewhere since I didn’t give Me Oh My its due.
Thank goodness for lazy afternoons on the deck, because this is an exceptional album that I have grown to appreciate.
While there is much to consider within, I think what finally got me were lines from “All You Ever”: “And now it’s just the same damn thing/You fail like you’ve been practicing/Everything you ever tried to be was just a fantasy/King of all the hypocrites/Every day the same old thing/Well ain’t you getting sick of it.”
Now there’s a frog on the table for ya to consider. (The online lyric sheet inserts a rhyming expletive in place of the final ‘thing’ in that exchange.)
Largely acoustic, The Honeycutters utilize instruments to construct an aggressive honky tonk country sound that is quite miraculous. Tal Taylor (mandolin), Matt Smith (pedal steel and reso), Rick Cooper (bass), and Josh Milligan (drums, percussion, and most of the vocal harmony) provide the group’s formidable instrumental backbone, while powerful vocalist Amanda Anne Platt fronts the group.
Basically, this is unapologetic hillbilly rock ‘n’ roll. In the hands of others, a song like “Edge of the Frame” would be a FM radio staple, but The Honeycutters place a wistfulness within their songs that can only emanate from country roots: had it been released in 1995, “Jukebox” might have been a CMT hit. Free of the navel-gazing moodiness and egocentrism permeating much of contemporary Americana, Platt’s songs ring with the authenticity of lived truths. This is commercial country twenty years too late to be mainstream.
Songs like “Not that Simple” and “Ain’t it the Truth” speak to the crux of infidelity and settling, whereas “Wedding Song” flips the plot, giving hope to those trapped in misery: “When you found me I was broken clear in two/My heart was split wide open, tired of hoping, tired of playing the fool./But you did what I thought nobody could do/You pieced me back together/kissed the hurting parts, made me new.”
The album’s strongest song, if not most accessible, is one Fred Eaglesmith and Greg Trooper might be proud to own. “Hearts of Men” artfully captures the troubled darkness that seeps through one’s mind during long, lonely drives. Here Platt constructs a short story in song, a sketch that is impactful in description and significant in emotional heft, punctuated by an atmosphere created of pedal steel and Telecaster.
Elsewhere, the truths jabs in the dark, quick fatal stabs of poetic insight. “I’m tired of the truth, I’m tired of pretending” is sung in “I’ll Be Loving You” while the title track offers, “I had a baby but the good Lord took her/She was an angel but her wings were crooked/I guess he figured he could love her better than me.”
Me Oh My is an album that should have immediately appealed to me, rich as it is in the rural roots of country, folk, and ‘grass. That it didn’t is entirely on me. I’m grateful it was patient with me, holding off the others until I could feel its soul.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
This week at Lonesome Road Review, I write about the new album by Asheville, North Carolina’s Red June. Featuring a striking piece of art as its album cover- by Nancy Hilliard Joyce, the creation of which is featured in the EPK at the band’s website– the initial positive impact of this recording, not to mention the goodwill and anticipation created by the band’s two previous recordings, made this disc standout from the others received this month.
Good thing the music stands up to that promise. Ancient Dreams is a pretty dramatic acoustic Americana recording, one that should provide many hours of listening pleasure this spring and summer.
More people are starting to notice this band; with more high profile gigs- they just played Merlefest- Red June is a band to watch. My review can be found here.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald