Monday, October 31, 2011

Album review: honeyhoney

Billy Jack
(Lost Highway)
Grade: A
Earlier this year, Americana act The Civil Wars released a wonderful full-length debut album. Now honeyhoney - another male/female duo in the genre - just unveiled their edgier, but equally impressive first major label effort, Billy Jack.
Ben Jaffe and Suzanne Santo first crossed musical paths in L.A. during the late 2000s. The pair put out the Loose Boots EP in ’08, produced by Jude Cole (Lifehouse) and released on Ironworks Music - the indie label he runs with Kiefer Sutherland. Several bands latched onto the honeyhoney track “Little Toy Gun” and started covering it on YouTube.
With a smoky voice that sometimes recalls Norah Jones, Santo also possesses a Gretchen Wilson-styled bad girl feistiness that crops up in the lyrics. The solemn “Don’t Know How” (co-written with Josh Rouse) is colored by simple acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo and unobtrusive drums, while upbeat stomper “I Don’t Mind” should appeal to Mumford & Sons fans. A pedal steel-infused “Glad I’ve Done What I Did” revisits Neil Young-circa-Harvest territory.
Coincidentally, it’s followed by the seething shuffle “Ohio” (not that one). The Buckeye State fascination continues on rollicking album highlight “Let’s Get Wrecked,” about bad intentions (getting laid, stoned and hitched) across the country, alongside electric guitar and harmonica blasts.
Other standouts include the sweet She & Him-leaning “Old School Friends,” revolving around a reunion and getting drunk in the woods. Then there’s the desperate “Thin Line,” where possibilities of whisky, men and raisin’ hell are pondered. Banjo dominates the sound until it veers into early White Stripes territory. Definitely one to watch.

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