Honey Don’t

Fatea Magazine UK Review  Click here to read online

Written by, Peter Cowley

Fatea Magazine UK

February 2014

Album: Heart Like A Wheel

Label: 2 Dolla Reccas

Tracks: 9

"Honey Don't" is the title of the b-side of Carl Perkins's 1956 single "Blue Suede Shoes". It is also the name of a duo from Colorado comprising Bill Powers and Shelley Gray, who are ,perhaps, better known as members of the old-time bluegrass band "Sweet Sunny South".

"Heart Like A Wheel" is the title of a 1983 biopic about Shirley Muldowney and her determination to become a Top-Fuel Drag Racer. It is also the title of the latest album by Honey Don't and should not be confused with the Linda Ronstadt album of the same name.

Whilst Bill and Shelley play bluegrass music with Sweet Sunny South ,they are at pains to point out that Honey Don't's new album is not a bluegrass album. They describe it as "Americana and Folk-Rock". I would definitely agree that [a] this is not a bluegrass album and [b] this is an Americana album in the truest sense ,as it incorporates various types of American roots music ,including rockabilly, Cajun, swamp rock and blues but not, of course, bluegrass.

Bill writes the songs and plays guitar ,mandolin and banjo whilst Shelley plays bass and also sings. On this album they are joined by Sticky Mulligan on drums [on most of the tracks] and Eric Moon on organ accordion and lap steel.

Bill can certainly write a catchy tune ,as he shows right from the first track "Breakin' Down" with its insistent guitar riffs, both electric and acoustic. One of my favourite tracks on the album is the rockabilly-boogie "Rock And A Hard Place" which juxtaposes incisive lyrics about economic hard times with a big guitar riff. The song takes on a Cajun flavour courtesy of the superb fiddle playing of Betse Ellis and the accordion of Eric Moon.

"Feel Like Going Home" is a gentle mandolin and organ-driven country shuffle ,which Bill describes as a "homage to all veterans". In a similar vein is the title track "Heart Like A Wheel", a sweet,rolling ,radio-friendly, country-rock number.

In considerable contrast to what went before it is "Barry's Wild Ride" ,a superbly funky instrumental which features Bill's intricate acoustic guitar and some superb organ from Eric Moon in a great country-funk-jazz-rock hybrid. Apparently, this tune is the "theme song for a surfing,yoga practicising,vegan bear from the Northwest"- make of that what you will!

Bill's sense of humour also comes to the fore on "Playing In The Devil's Electric Band"which he describes how playing for the Devil is " just a job and I do it well, everybody says were going to burn in hell". This satanic tale features great guest appearances by Betse Ellis on red hot fiddle and Randall Utterback on slithery dobro.

The one and only non-original song is ,somewhat surprisingly, Blondie's massive 1979 chart-topper [both in the USA and the UK] "Heart Of Glass". This version of the Debbie Harry and Chris Stein song ,sung by Shelley, is much slower that the original but it works incredibly well. It's an excellent cover which complements the original hit record.

The final track "Stand Up" is very topical ,both in relation to Colorado and to the UK. The song is a call to protest against "fracking".

In Bill and Shelley's case ,it relates to "fracking" in their beloved North Fork Valley but it could just as easily apply to "fracking" in Lancashire, only a few miles from where I live. It's good to hear that the Protest Song is still alive and well !

I must say that this is a most impressive album ,with excellent songwriting and great playing. I hope that it reaches out beyond Colorado and receives the wider audience that it surely deserves.

Peter Cowley