I think it was on BBC Alba’s coverage of Belladrum last year that I stumbled across the Local Honeys for the first time.
Now I must confess that I’m not really a fan of bluegrass music. There’s something about it that just doesn’t speak to me.
Perhaps I’ve just seen too many bad Americana-influenced cover bands? What struck me about the Local Honeys was their lyrics. They sing about real things. Life. Social commentary. That and I love their band’s name. Originally my plan was to see them in the Concert Hall rather than in St Luke’s in their support slot.
That change brought the bonus of seeing Tyler Childers too.
This was an all Kentucky affair. Both bands hailing from the state and deeply passionate about their music, community and culture.
The Local Honeys are Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs. The former playing guitar or Fiddle, the latter playing banjo or guitar.
It’s a simple set up of two instruments and two voices. They take turns to sing the lead parts and sometimes harmonies together.
With each song they gave a little intro and background explaining the story or the context behind the song.
Their song ‘Cigarette Trees’ is about the Martin County coal slurry spill which Montana Hobbs explained quickly but in great detail about how much of an environmental catastrophe that was and how people there still don’t have access to clean drinking water, nearly twenty years later. A cause that both bands on the bill have donated to.
Other lyrics touch on topics like opioid addiction. Not illicit ones but rather being addicted to pain killers, the causes and the effect is has on the protagonist’s life and relationships.
Now I realise that all sounds a bit grim on paper but fear not. They deliver these songs with a good dose of self deprecating humour and a warmth and tenderness. Like their intro to their song ‘I’m S.A.V.E.D’. “We made a Gospel record. But before your eyes glaze over it is a Gospel record from people who still like to cuss and drink beer”
Seeing Tyler Childers tonight was entirely a bonus for me as my real interest was with the Local Honeys.
They mentioned earlier that they were touring together and at some point Tyler would casually slip away to Los Angeles and pick up the Grammy he’s been nominated for before rejoining them in Berlin.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised because my God, what an amazing band! The songs are beautifully crafted and they had some really great musicianship on show.
It’s one of those gigs that I know I should be taking notes but find myself just happily lost in the music instead.
If they do pick up that award I doubt you’ll be seeing them in a venue this size again. Actually, that might apply to both bands.