This is a republished post, backdated to reflect that and posted again for reader visibility, edited for past grammatical errors and sentence structure issues.
The Honeycutters have always frustrated me. They’re a talented group, and Amanda Anne Platt is a great songwriter, but more often than not their projects are usually just shy of greatness. Either that or they have so many unnecessary aspects holding them back. Granted, they managed to craft what I consider to be their best album On The Ropes last year, thanks to taking chances with the production and the writing, but it’s as if those chances were for naught on their latest self-titled album.
Before this goes downhill, though, let me state right up front that I’d like to extend my congratulations to Amanda Anne Platt for feeling confident to throw her name out there and feel that she’s ready for the spotlight. That kind of confidence for any artist is rare. With that said, the band’s newest self-titled album isn’t necessarily bad, but there’s really nothing special about it, and the problems are very clear.
To repeat myself, though, before this goes downhill, let’s at least talk about the positive aspects of this album. Amanda Anne Platt is still a great writer capable of infusing great details into her material. Most of these tracks are reflections on life, and for the most part they feel as if they’re reflections that feel personal to Platt’s life. “Birthday Song” – the best song here – is a fantastic look at how even though we all grow older, we may not all grow wiser, and while we should use those learning experiences to help us with the next year, we never really do. It’s an honest, moving track. and it’s a great way to kick off the album.
But after that, it leads to the first big problem of this album – the flow. Many of these songs are fine as they are in terms of their sonic palette: you get some nice acoustic melodies backed by light drums and some pedal steel accents. The problem is that when you have an album as long as this, there needs to be a better variety. Again, they’re fine on their own, but as an album this starts to run together extremely fast.
Granted, that extends towards the lack of differing tempos on this album, and that’s a criticism that I had for their 2015 album, Me Oh My. Good songwriting can take an album very far, but there’s still a limit as to how much it can carry the album on its own.
There are moments that differ slightly. “Diamond In The Rough” is a rare moment where the Honeycutters choose to incorporate an electric guitar into their music to give it somewhat of a more energetic feel, and “The Things We Call Home” switches things up to go straight for an old school honky-tonk moment. I was also a fan of the minor keys in “The Good Guys”, and “Late Summer’s Child” has a very interesting melody to it. However, when you choose to have thirteen songs here (The Honeycutters prefer longer albums), you need more than just “moments” that are different here.
Let’s get back to the songwriting, though, because again, that’s where the album ultimately works. However, I will say some songs like “Rare Thing” and “Brand New Start” just feel like filler, considering they have similar themes as well as were simply done better with “What We’ve Got” earlier on. There are also some lines that feel a little clumsy like “hearing a dog dream” in “What We’ve Got” or learning about Christopher Columbus in “Eden.”
However, there are good moments here. “Diamond In The Rough” is a good lesson on how we all want to be somebody. It’s an overused theme but there’s some great writing present to bolster this song. “The Guitar Case” also seems to speak to struggling musicians and how the struggle for fame and fortune is a daunting one, but one you need to pursue if your heart is truly in it. “Learning How To Love Him” is also another highlight where a woman reflects on her 40+ year marriage to her husband. Sure, marriage isn’t perfect, and she admits it was far from perfect. However, she’s finally learned that that’s what love – no – life is about. It’s not perfect; it’s all about the learning.
So in the end, this album frustrated me a little bit, if only because the Honeycutters are so much better than this. On a release that celebrated a fresh step forward, it just feels like a very safe project throughout that has its good moments instead of crafting something truly excellent. I think the fans will like it, but as for me, I’m sorry, the band can do better in my view.
The Honeycutters are as follows:
- Amanda Anne Platt: vocals, acoustic guitar, songwriting
- Rick Cooper: bass
- Evan Martin: keyboards, electric guitar
- Josh Milligan: vocals, drums
- Matt Smith: pedal steel guitar, electric guitar