Abby Zotz – Local Honey (LP)
Port Hope, Canada’s Abby Zotz isn’t a newcomer to the music scene – she’s made quite a reputation for herself over the last two decades performing folk and traditional music in a variety of outfits and, usually, with longtime collaborator Bryan Williston, but Local Honey represents the first time Zotz has ventured out on her own with a solo release. The eleven song collection leans musically towards Zotz’s deep experience as a folk singer/songwriter, building around her vocals and acoustic guitar, but the songs show satisfying diversity and take chances similar performers likely wouldn’t dare. “Stability”, the album opener, is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s work, but she expands on that influence by incorporating additional instrumentation like vibes and tasteful percussion. It’s essentially a love song, but a mature one rather than some pie-eyed grab bag of clichés. It’s an excellent introduction to Zotz’s first solo album.
Light organ opens the album’s song “Big Hope” and the same tasteful drumming distinguishing the opener is present here as well. Biting electric guitar fills further flesh out the songwriting, but both the electrified six string work and organ playing alike are never obtrusive and sound well balanced with the remainder of the song. “Peace Sweet Peace” weaves together an improbable mix of gospel and light jazz with memorable results. It’s a textbook example of giving a song exactly what it needs and nothing more – from the finger snapping, glistening piano runs, and harmony vocals, it teems with immense soulfulness and a likable jaunty quality.
“Good Bones” returns listeners to familiar folky territory and has a lulling sound, both musically and vocally, drawing you in from the first. Zotz illustrates throughout the course of Local Honey how adept she is with handling a variety of subject matter, but it’s often the poetic flourish of her lyric writing elevating the material to a higher level. It’s an understated quality, but key to the album’s success. Those same qualities distinguish “Be Here Now” and the lyric seems to be a nod towards living in the present with many admirable twists during its verses. It’s one of the solidest cuts included on Zotz’s solo debut and shows off her same tightly composed style setting so much of the release heads and shoulders above many of her peers.
The simmering percussion running through the entirety of “Sea Change” gives the song a restless pulse quite appropriate for its subject matter and the near-gossamer like touch of the song’s mandolin keeps the song effervescent and floating above ground during the song’s first quarter. Acoustic guitar soon joins and the number percolates throughout its four minutes forty one second running time. A light jazz/bluesy mood, near torch song, characterizes the closer “You’ll Never Know” and this affection valediction directed towards a loved one comes across as an ideal final curtain for Local Honey. It’s an album touching on every base and Abby Zotz’s first solo collection will entertain and touch both devoted and casual music fans alike over time and throughout multiple listens.