The Honeycutters – ‘On The Ropes’

944856_1147934841905596_5505366897680583153_nWhenever you feel that country music is reinventing itself to the extreme and drifting off into dangerous waters, dig just slightly below the surface and salvation is at hand.

The Honeycutters have released their fourth studio album, the follow up to their ‘Me Oh My’ album that came out last year.

We guess that they won’t be a name that is instantly recognisable here in the UK. You would probably get the same reaction by speaking to a cross section of folks who will attend the CMA Festival. The Honeycutters won’t be there.

It’s not for us to speculate on the reason for that but it’s certainly not based upon the quality of their musical output. They are a 5-piece band based in Asheville, North Carolina, a hotbed of country/Americana music.

The band is led by Amanda Anne Platt who sings all lead vocals and composes the vast majority of the songs. She is very ably supported however by a group of very talented musicians – Tal Taylor on mandolin, Rick Cooper on upright bass, Matt Steel on pedal steel and Josh Milligan on drums.

The devil is in the detail. This is a band that relies on traditional country music instrumentation played and performed by artists who remain true to country music heritage.

The Honeycutters have produced a very fine album. It’s a body of work that should be recognised. We have read reviews that suggest that if you like real country music you should go get this album. It’s an album that will have you hooked into the quality of Platt’s song writing and harmonies very quickly.

The subject material is also fairly traditional country; drinking, the breakup of relationships and general hard living. The songs are top draw but a good song becomes a great song by the quality of the production and instrumentation.

Take for example ‘Let’s Get Drunk’, a fun, upbeat, toe tapper that lacks the emotive depth of the majority of songs on offer due to the subject material. However it becomes a stand out track because of the superb instrumental backing from the boys in the band.

When listening to this album one wonders why they remain almost anonymous. Underrated has never been more apt. We are treated to 13 gems. There isn’t a low point.

There is only one cover. This is their interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s classic ‘Hallelujah’ that has never sounded more upbeat and inspirational. It could have been the ‘oh no not again’ moment as it’s been covered by so many artists. It isn’t because of the song’s unique arrangement, Taylor’s sumptuous mandolin skills and that infectious pedal steel sound.

The title track ‘On The Ropes’ begins with Platt singing the hopefully prophetic line acappella – “I’ve been making something out of nothing for a long time now you might say I’m bluffing but I’m going to make it work somehow”

It’s a strong opening and leads onto the track that just about raises its head above the quality on offer here. ‘Blue Besides’ is a stormer. It’s the go-to track if time is short. Platt’s emotive vocals are complemented by a very addictive drum rhythm on a song that deals with someone with a high self opinion “hang up that halo and get by with the rest of us”

It’s an album that will impress many. Take a look at the reviews for this album elsewhere. The praise is consistent and universal. It might be alternative such is the modern take on country music but it’s alternative at its finest. This seriously demands your attention.