SoundTrack web extra: The Honeycutters

During the opening set at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall (Moses Atwood put on an electrifying performance, his Van Morrison-meets-Randy Newman sound elevated by a polished delivery, sparkling lyrics and the addition of Michael Libramento on drum kit) someone commented, “This is a nice place. You wouldn’t even know you’re in West Asheville.” It was meant as a compliment, though Isis — for all of its flash — seems perfectly at home on Haywood Road. In a way, the comment could work for The Honeycutters, too, who were playing night two of a two-night stand. They’re a nice band and you wouldn’t even know they’re country.

Only, of course the Honeycutters are country. Just not in a country-re-envisioned for pop radio way. The local band performs with an old school, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash approach. Just enough flourish to highlight each song. A tasteful guitar lick here, a mandolin solo there. But ultimately it’s about the songs (which are masterfully crafted) and the delivery. Front woman Amanda Platt sings with just a hint of a twang and plenty of control. Pretty, but without frills. During “Standing on the Edge,” a couple started dancing, their bodies pressed close in the standing-room-only space.

“Last night we did this seated thing and it was lovely,” said lead guitarist Pete James. “But this right here: yeah.” It was obvious that the band was feeling the crowd as much as the crowd was feeling the band. “90 Miles (The Tennessee Song)” was both poignant and smooth. The Honeycutters seemed to skim the emotional tides of their songs, nodding to the complex feelings that roil just below the surface without ever getting bogged down. Tal Taylor’s mandolin added sparkling accents.

The mandolin started off “Waitin’ in the Morning,” the nimble strings a bright voice against the sturdy 2/4 tempo. Someone at the bar yipped in time; someone else fist-pumped to the decidedly un-anthemic tune. But these songs, especially those from the band’s stellar release Irene are, if not local anthems, then an undeniable part of Asheville’s sound track. The slower, bittersweet country two-step “Automatic” was welcomingly familiar to the audience, the spell of its swaying beat broken only by the insistent drum-and-bass backbone to “Marie.”

That song showcased tight harmonies; “Firebreathing,” with its clever circus references, offered a deceptively simple but astute guitar part. Each member of the band (including Rick Cooper on bass and Josh Milligan on drums) plays at the top of their game, but every note is as thoughtful as it is tasteful. Together, the Honeycutters make complicated instrumental maneuvers and sophisticated songwriting look easy.

A few highlights from the evening included what Platt called “a depressing birthday song” dedication (“Good At Waiting” from last year’s When Bitter Met Sweet); a new song, written by Platt, with a sleepy lilt and the anguished line, “I want to be home again, I want to be alright;” and a very dark and lush rendition of “Lillies” that pretty much summed up exactly what the Honeycutters do. They make instruments emote, they make songs that tell stories while also feeling like real life, and they play country in a way that’s both exactly country, in the most genuine sense, and also something wholly authentic.

Photos by Gabe Spencer of Simply Pickin’


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.

One thought on “SoundTrack web extra: The Honeycutters

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.