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Locust Honey String Band's Old Time Mountain Songs

Locust HoneyThere’s a rock hard spine that holds up the bones of American country music, both now and back to the distant past. That spine is the spirit of the women who have given their hearts and souls to the music–everyone from Loretta Lynn and Kitty Wells to Sara Carter and Ola Belle Reed. It’s a spirit very much alive in the music of Asheville, North Carolina’s Locust Honey String Band.

Born in Georgia, singer and fiddler Chloe Edmonstone channels generations of women in her original songs, writing odes to jilted lovers, hard drinkers, and independent souls that can walk hand in hand with the old-time mountain songs that have been carefully selected for Locust Honey’s new album, Never Let Me Cross Your Mind. The new album showcases the dynamic partnership of Edmonstone and renowned old-time musician guitarist/singer Meredith Watson, the core of Locust Honey. The two carefully crafted the arrangements and harmonies and sing so closely together that they could be siblings. The album also introduces Locust Honey’s new banjo player: Hilary Hawke of popular New York duo Dubl Handi, who’s been leading a new folk revival in Brooklyn.

Each member of Locust Honey String Band is steeped in the old-time music of the Appalachian mountains. They bring a huge passion for American roots and a knowledge of how the different genres of music that criss-cross Appalachia have historically intersected and influenced each other. The music on Never Let Me Cross Your Mind is a jubilee of Southern musical traditions, from old-time string band fiddle/banjo tunes to vintage country duets, old Carter Family songs, dancehall honky-tonk numbers, and mountain blues. It’s all tied together with remarkable finesse by three artists who know the roots of the music inside-and-out, but aren’t afraid to push back at the tradition to get at new truths.

Locust Honey String Band’s new album strikes a lovely balance between the raw ferocity of a live show and the precision and subtlety of a studio recording. Part of that’s due to the deft touch of recording engineer, Grammy-award winner Joel Savoy. Never Let Me Cross Your Mind was recorded, mixed, and mastered at his studios in Eunice, Louisiana, and you can feel the warmth and joy Locust Honey must have been feeling during these recordings. Each member of Locust Honey has a chance to shine here, and the interplay of the instruments and the vocal harmony is at the forefront.

The lively arrangements are remarkably effective at drawing out the heart of the song by reworking its setting. “I’ve Forgotten More Than You’ll Ever Know About Him” turns from its 50s Western roots into a beautiful string band song. Nick Cave’s bleak “Henry Lee” is returned to its Appalachian roots without losing its iconoclastic nature. George Jones’ classic “Just One More” becomes a sister-harmony country and western song. And throughout, Edmonstone’s originals shine from the glow of all these different influences, actively pushing the traditions in new directions. It’s an ambitious album, but what makes it even more impressive is how simple and direct every song sounds. Never Let Me Cross Your Mind is a celebration of the power of acoustic roots music, of the fact that when you strip the music back to its core it only grows more powerful.

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