Over the years Linda Jean Stockley and Montana Hobbs have been making music together as “The Local Honeys” , garnering countless accolades and becoming the defining sound of the real deal, honest-to-God Kentucky music.
But from the outset the duo demanded to be interpreted as creators and storytellers, not just purveyors of tradition, and this is exactly what they have given us on their self-titled album, out now on La Ronda Records, with the ten tracks featuring winsome vignettes of rural Kentucky. Grammy – nominated producer Jesse Ray Wells helped the band shape the songs, which feature members of Tyler Childers‘ band “The Food Stamps” including Wells himself, bridging their traditional music knowledge and experience into a modern sound . And in a similar way, when it comes to the lyrics the resulting album shows off The Local Honeys’ gifted way with words, particularly the playful colloquialisms and regional idiosyncrasies from their home in Kentucky, which connect the past and present, old and new.
“This is the first time we’ve actively gotten to express who we are and where we’re from” says Linda. “The songs on the album speak for us” adds Montana, “they’re about what we know, reflections of us as people. We realised we have the power to add our own narrative into Kentucky music”.
Album track “Throw Me In The Thicket ( When I Die)” is a perfect example of what they have created. Linda grew up on an orchard, which is the centrepiece for the track , and she says that growing up surrounded by plants, animals and people who knew how to care for them was “a gift”. She describes the song as “somewhat of a love story to my home. I never wanted to leave”. The beautiful mix of sweet clawhammer banjo, rock and roll drums, and melodic vocal and fiddle lines are fitting for such a touching tribute.
The songs on the album speak to a new generation, a new Appalachian, who understand the beauty, the struggle and the complexity of contemporary Appalachian life. In “The Ballad of Frank and Billy Buck”, for example, we learn of the grace, humour and irony of an ageing hillbilly leading up to the final moments of his unjust demise as a result of being too big hearted ( a real tear jerker of a song especially if you are a dog lover, Billy being Frank’s faithful hound) and “If I Could Quit” grapples with the horrors of the ongoing opiate epidemic and the pain of watching a friend deteriorate through addiction…“Crushing pills with coffee cups in a cigarette cellophane”. The album opener is its only cover, written by Appalachian royalty and kin to Montana, Jean Ritchie, a song highlighting the hardship of post-coal communities which paints a picture of an all too familiar scene of contemporary rural life in the area.
I’ll leave the final words on the album to Linda, who notes “Songwriting can freeze people in time, like a photograph, preserving little nuances particular to specific cultures and I love that”.
The band played a very special album release show at Nashville’s iconic venue The Basement and continue with a very busy touring schedule Stateside throughout the coming months, all details at thelocalhoneys.com/tour.