Awesome Acts from Asheville
Here’s my Big Band Theory: Every year, MerleFest catapults two
or three of the newer bands making their way down to Wilkesboro to greater heights than they ever
imagined. It happened 15 years ago for a relatively unknown Gillian Welch and seven years ago for
the Avett Brothers.
Last month’s festival featured a number of standout newcomers, two of which coincidentally come from Asheville. The Honeycutters and Red June parlayed their appearances at the Americana stage and other MerleFest venues into tangible expansion of their fanbases.
Timing is everything, in music as well as comedy. Maybe that’s why, on the heels of their MerleFest appearances, both Red June and the Honeycutters have new albums in the works.
Red June’s new disc, “Beauty Will Come,” showcases the versatile instrumental abilities of the three bandmates. Will Straughan (guitar, resonator guitar, vocals), John Cloyd Miller (guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Natalya Weinstein (fiddle, vocals) combine their talents to create instrumental music that is both timeless and new.
The Red June sound has roots that reach deep into the Celtic and Appalachian past. But the construction of the songs and the vocal harmonies recall newer bands such as Nickel Creek.
“Hard Every Mile” captures the band’s remarkable three-part vocal harmony abilities, while the slow song is an exercise in heartbreak.
“Connor’s/Scott’s (Reels)” and “Piney Branch Breakdown” find the band creating original string music that sounds as if were written a century ago.
The official release date for Red June’s “Beauty Will Come” is June 5.
Mountain Home Music will present Red June in concert at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 9. Tickets are available by calling (828) 964-3392.
The Honeycutters were definitely a band on the move at last month’s MerleFest. At each subsequent stage they performed at, the crowds got bigger and bigger.
The Honeycutters’ new album “When Bitter Met Sweet” perfectly captures the band’s strengths, particularly the songwriting skills of lead vocalist Amanda Anne Platt.
Tracks such as “90 Miles (the Tennessee Song)” and the title track of “When Better Met Sweet” re-affirms Platt’s place as one of the stronger songwriters in the region, a reputation she first earned with the release of the band’s first album, “Irene.”
Joining Platt in the Honeycutters are Pete James on lead guitar and backing vocals, Ian Harrod on upright acoustic bass and backing vocals, Tal Taylor on mandolin and Jon Ashley on drums.
With the addition of drums and the occasional electric guitar, the Honeycutters rock harder than many of their fellow folkies from Asheville, a trait they put to good use on songs such as “Penny.”
In fact, it is the Honeycutters’ ability to blend elements of rock (the occasional organ) or country (twangy guitars) that keeps their sound so fresh and original.
If “Irene,” with its strong set of songs like “Automatic” and “Mr. Cody,” helped establish The Honeycutters among Americana audiences, the band’s sophomore outing should go a long way to introduce them to a wider audience.
“When Bitter Met Sweet” was released May 1. The Honeycutters will perform as part of the High Country Bus Festival in Crumpler, N.C., on Saturday, July 28.