Sound Track web extra: Red Honey and the Pleasure Chest

From the first track, “123,” the almost-slinky sticks-on-rims drumming sets Red Honey and the Pleasure Chest (the new album by local blues/country/rock outfit Red Honey) apart. The percussion explode, full-kit, as guitars warble spacily and front woman Erika Jane Ferraby’s voice accelerates into something of a howl. On the chorus she mimics a train (much cooler and more stylized than that might sound). Her vocal, low and just shy of menacing, often recalls Grace Slick. The song builds slow and mean, either a threat or a promise. Either way, it portends a wild ride.

Red Honey and the Pleasure Chest is informed by a laundry list of influences, and these show up among the album’s 11 tracks. But at its heart, this is a rock project. For the most part, the instrumentation is straight-forward guitar-bass-drums-vocals venture, except for atmospherics introduced by keys and pedals. But those effects reign in any overtly bluesy inclination and also make for smooth transitions between tracks.

“Backs to the Wind” hints at psychedelia with swirling guitar licks and Ferraby’s commanding, marching vocal. The music lilts and sways around her delivery, which ranges from an almost spoken-word approach to echoing, sweeping whoops of sound.

“Bang Bang!” unleashes a maelstrom of cymbals and heavy guitars. Though one of the record’s shortest tracks, it’s also one of the most zealous. But the band’s energy and dynamism can be felt just as well — perhaps more so, on the recording as opposed to a live show — in the mediative peril of “Blackbird.” That song, part stomp and chant, whips and churns from some unfathomable deep. It resounds with tambourine and voodoo.

“Muhammad Ali” has rockabilly roots, borrowing words from the quotable boxer and changing time signatures with gymnastic agility. It’s a song made for drinking and maybe fighting. Probably for romancing. Definitely for breaking out the very best boozy dancing. But that sound, though fun, is niche, and its a relief to get back to the boomy production (thanks to Julian Dryer at Echo Mountain, with help from Marcel Anton) and garage sensibilities. “So light up your match, and dip it in fuel,” Jane sneers on “How can I love you,” one of the band’s grungier offerings. “Trouble” is grittier still, burying Jane’s vocal under buzzing effects. The guitars crackle with electricity and even though the beat is relatively slow, it’s a one-two gut punch followed by a muscular assault as the song builds. The distortion lends ballast to a song that, produced differently, could come off as campy.

Still, even fuzzed-out, the record has a clarity and a consistency throughout — and this was a record that almost wasn’t, after the band’s studio funds were stolen. Knowing that backstory suggests that Red Honey and the Pleasure Chest was made under at least a little bit of duress, yet its end result is controlled and polished. Not too polished. But the attention to detail is as crisp as the solid bass line and the astringent smack of snare.

“So Cold” is a stand out for its raw emotionalism and for the range Ferraby achieves. “Why do you have to have control?” she asks some unknown love/assailant, but she’s the one wielding absolute authority. The songs builds form a dark creep into a tumult of thundering instrumentation and the kind of lyrics that would be shrill coming from a lesser singer. Ferraby’s upper register retains a sweetness (albeit a sweetness with a dangerous edge) that pummels and tosses the song against its own dusky boundaries.

“Sunny Place” makes great use of an organ part, its quaver more otherworldly than country-rock. The song ambles as much as it struts, bridging duel time portals to both late ‘60s-era California rock and the ominous cow punk of the late ‘70s — two musical aeons that seem at odds with each other and yet, here, prove perfectly matched.

Final track, “Daydreaming,” is a mood changer — more honky-tonk, more old country. The guitar jangles, the drum is all snap and two-step and, as Ferraby hits vintage, rounded notes, there’s a definite wink.

Red Honey holds an album release party at Wicked Weed on Thursday, Sept. 19.  9 p.m., free. Local band Pleasure Chest also performs. Info here.





Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.