Vieux Farka Toure
The Local Honeys
They sing the high lonesome sound and tell a damn good story
Thursday 7th November 2019, 7.30pm
The HUBS, 6 Paternoster Row, Sheffield
Due to the torrential rain our reviewer from Now Then magazine was unable to attend. This left us without a reviewer for the gig so I took the slightly unusual step of asking some of our TG2 volunteers if they would contribute a paragraph or two. My thanks to Olivia Cox and Liz Williams for helping me out.
Before going on to their reviews I’d like to mention the microphone The Local Honeys were using. They used a single retro styled disc shaped mic which was spring suspended in a circular frame on a single mic stand. When questioned about this we discovered from Montana and Linda Jean, that this type of mic was an integral part of Bluegrass performance tradition. There was certainly a cost implication to having only one mic as they are expensive bits of equipment, however, from a technical point of view such mics are ideal for small acoustic ensembles. Typically a band gathers around the mic and take turns to lean into the mic when its time for their vocals. In some cases of soloing the band member would have to lift their guitar or banjo up towards the mic for a better sound capture.
The Honeys obliged us by showing us how this would take place. We were asked to imagine a larger band of say 4 or 5 members when each member would have to time their advance and retreat in time with the other band members during a tune. This would give an impression to the audience of a well choreographed dance incorporated into the delivery of the tune and the vocals. This performance aspect was notable during the Honeys’ performance when they wanted to emphasise a guitar or banjo sole – or even both together, during an instrumental break in the tune.
It was a great evening with a good balance of chat and music. It was fascinating to hear about the routes the Local Honeys took from their own musical origins to first meeting up, and then their decision to becoming a duo and the difficulties and challenges they encountered on the way.
They gave a colourful and comprehensive explanation of the Appalachian and Bluegrass musical traditions and the variations in the sub genre's added further interest to their musical illustrations and oral descriptions.
Their current music catalogue varies between gospel, blue grass and traditional tunes and was carried out by the accomplished playing of banjo, fiddle and guitar. Both women sang delightfully with their homeland Kentucky accents adding that extra authenticity to the Appalachian sound.
Many of the songs were focused on environmental issues, mine workers rights as in “Cigarette Trees”, women's issues as in “Little Girls Acting Like Men”. They are also supportive regarding social issues; like performing a benefit gig for Kentucky miners blockading the railroads over non payment by the coal companies.
The Local Honeys covered these issues in either a contemporary self penned songs or adaptations of original traditional Appalachian or Bluegrass tunes, all the while their good nature and humour shone through in their delivery of all the numbers they played. All of which was extremely well received by an appreciative audience”. (Liz Williams)
The evening of November the 7th was exceptional in more ways than one. As, despite extreme weather conditions, the Local Honeys braved their journey to Sheffield through flooding, diversions and traffic jams, to bring the warmth of Kentucky culture to our music stage at The HUBS. Fortunately, the deluge (of almost biblical scale) also failed to deter the majority of our volunteer helpers and dedicated audience. Perhaps a little of 'The Gospel' spirit, their latest album released on 1.11.19, found favour for the event.
Montana Hobbs and Linda Jean Stokley were the first women to graduate with a degree in traditional Hillbilly Music from Morehead State University in Kentucky. Reflecting on their local histories, they spoke about the tradition of women playing music and storytelling in the family environment whilst men performed in public. Men were traditionally able to express opinions and emotions in words and music that were not available to the public face of women. The Local Honeys vowed to turn this around and we heard that their fist Album, 'Little Girls Actin' Like Men', introduced them as musicians who weren't afraid to tackle the challenges of the specific techniques or subject matter.
The two women talked about the influences of Hillbilly music, from Irish, Scottish, blues and jazz and how the musical style was informed by its heritage. We heard the banjo, for example, with its historical roots firmly embedded in the journey of African Americans, evolved from a rhythmic drone, capable of being constructed from simple materials. The fiddle, with its roots in European colonisation, developed a local style known as Appalachian or 'Old Time' which was often solo or unaccompanied dance music. This section was richly illustrated by demonstrations of the different styles and techniques.
Their story continued into the second half with a rousing performance of strong personal and political commentary and powerful musical accompaniment. Particularly notable was the acapella 'Gloryland', the anti-strip mining song 'Cigarette Trees' and the wonderful vocals of the finale 'Freight Train Blues' (which set us up nicely for the challenges of homeward travel). (Olivia Cox)