Album review: Honeycutters songs in the right key of life
The mountains win again. Delivered to the world down a cool, crooked road from the musically lush heights of Asheville, North Carolina, comes the Honeycutters, with their perfect mix of sweetness, and gritty, grimy, truck-stop swagger.
Country music in the hands of singer/songwriter Amanda Anne Platt and her posse ensures that the entire genre stays relevant and protected. It can’t possibly get any more real and affecting than it does in “Golden Child,” the third song on this wonderful band’s fourth album, “On The Ropes.” With a slight twang in the melody, and the simultaneous firm urgency and vulnerability Platt puts into her tale of coming up in this life, the song’s an instant classic.
But it all starts with the completely irresistible opening title track, where she gets playful with the idea of being backed into a series of corners and getting out. The hooks in it, right and left, will decisively floor any man — or lady. The stately air of “The Only Eyes” perfectly underscores Platt’s fine declaration of devotion, but the stout groove the band lays down on “Back Row” does the same for her tale of deceit. Platt’s heavenly-nuanced voice singing the line “I’ve been so close I could smell her breath, like cinnamon and death” really cuts to the bone. And so does the music, especially Matthew Smith’s Stratocaster a la Mark Knopfler.
Although Platt is clearly the star, this really is a band production, and well-produced at that. The five pieces, plus their guests here and there such as pianist Jeff Collins, get down to it. “Let’s Get Drunk” goes the appropriate rockabilly route with the aforementioned Collins rollin’ em. But in “Barmaid’s Blues,” Platt lays out the protagonist’s emotional recollections on a bed of cantering country, incredibly so. Platt wrote all these great songs save a breezy version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” The girl surely can write and sing. Believe me. Songs in the key of real life right here, folks. This beautiful album portends a very bright future.
— Tom Clarke
“On The Ropes”Label: Organic Records
ABOUT Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos.
Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage.
Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.