Story by Matt Wickstrom
Photos by Sarah Cahill
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The sassy and blunt old-time trio The Local Honeys have found Jesus – sort of – on their upcoming album The Local Honeys Sing the Gospel, out next month. Today the band shares the compilation’s first single “Everybody wants to go to Heaven,” a reimagining of fellow Eastern Kentuckian Loretta Lynn’s 1965 hit song from her Hymns gospel-inspired album.
The album is the highly-anticipated follow-up to the band’s 2017 debut Little Girls Actin’ Like Men for the group led by trailblazing duo Montana Hobbs and Linda Jean Stokley, the first two women to graduate from Morehead State University’s Kentucky School for Traditional Music. The group has since added Megan Gregory (harmony, fiddle) into the mix full-time along with Stanton, Ky.’s Chelsea Nolan (snare drum) on “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven.”
The Honeys have long had a knack for conjuring up intensely intimate and raw sounding music harkening back to times long gone with tightly layered, howling harmonies and foot-stomping instrumentals that breathe new life into old-time mountain music. While this new album sees the group shift from old-time to gospel much of the attributes of each genre correlate to one another, making for an easily recognizable sound, albeit with a few new quirks.
Listen to “Everybody wants to go to Heaven” below.
Most of the album was recorded at Rick’s Main Street Studio in Clay City with Rickey Wasson, a long-time bandmate and performer alongside the iconic J.D. Crowe while one song – “Amazing Grace” – was recorded nearby on May 25, 2019 with a congregation of the band’s friends and family at Meadowgreen Appalachian Music Park. The Gospel encompasses various styles including old-time country, bluegrass, early electric guitar stylings, a brother/sister duet, 60’s folk and old regular Baptist lining out.
The band performed “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven” – along with several others from the album – during a show last night at The Burl that was initially supposed to serve as a release celebration for the record before a printer issue delayed the band from having more than one physical copy on hand at the show, which the band graciously raffled off. The official album release is now slated for Nov. 1.
During the celebration Stokley discussed the new album, jokingly pointing out that lots of artists get criticized for releasing sophomore albums that deviate from their original work, but that in the case of the Honeys people weren’t allowed to complain because “it’s gospel music, so if you don’ t like it it’s a sin.”
Other cuts recited from the album included the trio’s highly popular Don Rogers penned “First Church of God,” “I’m Going Home On The Morning Train,” “I’m S-A-V-E-D,” “High on a Mountain” – a song written by the band’s lawyer Larry Webster that included a guest performance from his 17 year old grand-daughter Ella Webster – and “By the Waters of the James” from Robbie Wells, uncle to Jesse Wells – Honeys’ mentor, Morehead State professor and touring member of Tyler Childers and The Food Stamps.
Other songs brought out during the show included a cover of Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard’s “Won’t you Come and Sing for Me” sang by Gregory; Jim Ford’s “Big Mouth USA” and early 1900s Christian hymn “Will the Circle be Unbroken” to cap the evening off. Additionally, the group was joined throughout the night by John Looney (mandolin, electric guitar, bass) of Appalachian duo Grits & Soul along with bandmate Anna Kline for a handful of numbers.
Prior to the Honeys taking to the stage it was Johnson City, Tennessee-based old-time country and swing foursome Bill and The Belles who set the mood with easy-going and whimsical porch-side songs that frontman Kris Truelsen jokingly referenced as being part of the upcoming Toy Story 8 soundtrack, thus becoming the “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” for future generations. That nostalgic zing may come from “That’ll Be Just Fine,” a lazy-sounding ballad with soft, interjecting harmonies that left those attendance hooting and hollering in jubilation.
The Local Honeys Sing the Gospel track list
- Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven
- Let The Church Roll On
- Things In Life
- First Church Of God
- High On A Mountain
- I’m Going Home On The Morning Train
- By The Waters Of The James
- Weighed In The Balance
- Plastic Jesus
- I’m S-A-V-E-D
- Amazing Grace
- We Shall All Be Reunited