When creating a record we can strive for many things, but at the core authenticity is something that should remain an ultimate goal as an artist. The Berklee born trio Honeysuckle has done just that and then some. They have stayed true to the music that you will encounter from them in a live setting and the history that infuses its way into their music. Focused on songwriting, expertly crafted instrumental arrangements, and vocals that will leave you weak and shivering from their overwhelming power, all while building on the core elements that makes their music so fantastic and gorgeous. With slightly more robust and build out pieces framing their songs, adding more expansive textures to their tracks, their latest release is a brilliant work of melding influence with innovation in the art of music. It just works, and works so well. In a word, a word that gets tossed around all to often to describe music, the music of this group is absolutely beautiful. Divine. Moving. Deep. (there’s a few more words as well)
The band picks and chooses sweet fruits from the orchard of their influence. The smart decision making in instrumental tapestry is reminiscent of Punch Brothers in the sheer musical acrobatics they unleash, seemingly impossible mandolin and banjo runs, the use of an array of pedal effects over the mandolin, but being anchored in its folk/bluegrass roots by acoustic guitar and banjo. I would compare the mandolin playing of Chris Bloniarz to someone like Chris Thile, but I am not sure that would do him justice. He is stretching the very bounds of the instrument all while being well established in the traditions of the it. Dude is incredible. The music is kept in time and check by the ever present thump of a bass drum under Benjamin Burns’ steady foot. While at the core, the songwriting being an incredibly sharp focus of Holly McGarry and Benjamin Burns, as they split writing duties across the record, but seamlessly interweave themes and the tracks in a way that flows beautifully over the course of the 10 songs. McGarry, being a longtime fan of roots pathmakers such as Gillian Welch, instills some of that influence into her writing. Tales of yearning, love, loss, and the introspection speck the record, giving a glimpse into the heart and mind of extremely talented writers.
There is also a varied collection of songs (sonically) bursting from the seams stitched in the very fabric that makes this music so enjoyable and wonderful. Leading in with the rhythm driving “It’s Getting Late” and the light, flowing, but pounding beat of “Canary” and then flowing into the gentle and heartwrenching “Board That Plane”. A thread that remains constant is the richness that the combination of the trios voices unleashes. “Plane” starts as a slow burn that remains exciting, which seems like an impossible task, but the instrumental breaks and back and forth play of the mandolin and banjo are pure bliss. The track creates a sort of cavern of sound, inviting you in and trust me, you want to explore the depths in as much detail as you can.
When Burns picks up the lead vocal duties on “Dog Song” I am intrigued and my ears are standing right up. There is something so pleasant to the natural break in his voice. It is raw and vulnerable and has an unshielded sense to it. As he sings you get that he is letting you in to see a piece of him. The song, like most contained here, builds upon itself adding texture and parts and keeping engagement and excitement behind the three singer’s voices. Its…just…awesome.
There is a very good reason this band was my favorite find of 2015. They are unique and exciting. They take traditional roots music and bend it in a way that refreshes what came before them and, while paying homage, creates something new. Shiny, but keeping the grit and dirt on the very best parts. Holly McGarry’s voice is one of the most warm and beautiful things I have heard in my 31 years of hearing sounds and the frame that the band crafts in and around it is astounding. The music here is poignant and deep but uptempo when it needs to be and exciting and can make you move. Sure to be on many best things from 2016 come the end of this year.
The band will be performing at Club Passim on March 24th to celebrate their album release show– you can go ahead and snatch up tickets here and then thank me later. For now…spin this record, again and again and again.