The Honeycutters in California
What does it mean today for an individual to discover a band? Not that many decades ago, I would find new music mostly from what was played on the radio, or possibly what I read about in the press (Rolling Stone or Village Voice reviews gave me a few ideas.). Today the only “real” radio I listen to on a regular basis is commute-time news programs (even so, NPR did introduce me to Lucinda Williams, thank you.) Most of the new music I’ve discovered recently was due to streaming services like Pandora or recommendations from friends.
A few weeks ago I was on Bandcamp.com. A friend had put up some of his recordings and while I was there I decided to browse the Americana links. I passed through a lot of music pretty quickly until I hit on one group. I listened to all the tracks from their album, then went back and listened again. Finally, I purchased a download of The Honeycutters “When Bitter Met Sweet.” I had never heard of this group before. (A subsequent search of No Depression brought up several postings.) I went to their website to discover that they would soon be in my state of California. None of their dates was within 200 miles of my home, but after a few weeks they showed up on the schedule of the Palms Playhouse in Winters.
I went to the show with some friends last Friday night, August 10, 2012. The space is fairly intimate and likely able to hold just over 200 people. It was about 1/3 full. Nonetheless, the band seemed happy with the turnout and felt good about their first California gig.
The group fits well in the Americana genre. There are definite roots and country elements mixed in with a rocking rhythm. Four of the five members have been playing together for several years; the current drummer was a recent (happy) addition. Not surprisingly, they play well together. Almost all of the songs they performed at the Palms were written by lead vocalist Amanda Platt. Peter James’ guitar and backing vocals blend exceptionally well, while Tal Taylor’s mandolin helps create distinctive an appealing sound. Ian Harrod on bass and Jon Ashley on drums rounded out the line-up I heard.
Platt’s songs are exceptional, with interesting melodies and well-written lyrics sung with a strong and engaging voice that sounds a bit like a blend of Gillian Welch and Loretta Lynn. Lyrics like “when I wake up I remember what I like about this town” and “we’d laugh at all the cars out in the street” seem to tickle my brain. Most of the songs they performed that night can be heard on their two albums, Irene and When Bitter Met Sweet. Two unrecorded songs were done, one older and a newer one. After a rousing rendition of their “Fancy Car” at the end of the second set, which gave every band member a chance to display his impressive musicianship, the group came back for an encore of Steve Earle’s “I’m Still in Love with You.”
I’m very glad I found Platt and her group. I listen to a lot of Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier, Gillian Welch and Shelby Lynne. Amanda Platt and The Honeycutters fit right in.