Epic Americana Anthems and Sobering Narratives From Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters
At a time when most artists are struggling to get any music out at all, Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters are on a rare creative tear. They’re one of the very few bands in history to release two consecutive double albums (the Grateful Dead did it twice). Their bristling, epic Live at the Grey Eagle, recorded in their hometown of Asheville, North Carolina is one of the most compelling Americana releases of recent years. They pick right up where they left off with their vast new release The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, streaming at Soundcloud.
It’s a concept record: the first disc is generally upbeat, the second quiet and immersive. “Sometimes you’re drowning in the deep blue sea and you need the devil to pull you out,” is Platt’s explanation. There’s a lot of poignancy in her painterly narratives, none more than in the album’s opening track, New York. For anyone who’s been driven out of the city in the last two years, or is staring down that prospect, it will rip your face off. There’s a point right after the first chorus where pianist Kevin Williams takes a tentative little downward riff and leaves it dangling, unresolved, an elephant lost to memories.
Burn – as in “burn it down” – is a low-key Dusty Springfield-esque Memphis soul tune anchoring one of Platt’s signature, aphoristic portraits of rural anomie and discontent. She details the quick disollution of a couple who were way too quick to tie the knot in The Devil, a honkytonk shuffle that Matt Smith colors with his spare, sailing pedal steel.
Likewise, Dallas affords Williams a chance to color the downcast ambience with his vintage Nashville piano lines. There’s subtle mystery in Saint Sebastian, a surreal summer vacation tableau set to a tiptoeing mashup of vintage soul and Tex-Mex.
Bassist Rick Cooper and drummer Evan Martin kick in harder in the catchy backbeat anthem Great Confession, Smith’s tantalizingly brief Telecaster leads ringing out over Williams’ organ. Platt’s cynical sense of humor reaches redline in Girls Like You, a propulsive reminder that determined, individualistic women haven’t always been regarded as role models.
Platt reflects on the legacy effects of girls who can’t resist the wrong guys in Eurydice, a low-key oldschool country ballad. “I didn’t drink a bloody mary on the plane because I wanted you to see me how I was raised,” Platt’s emotionally conflicted narrator recalls in Perfect Word, a gorgeously bittersweet, brisk requiem. She winds up the first disc with Desert Flowers, a swaying cross-country tale that looks back to late 90s alt-country songwriters like Kim Richey.
Disc two begins with Open Up Your Door, an angst-fueled vintage Emmylou Harris-style ballad, just Platt’s vocals over Smith’s steel and Williams’ sparse electric piano. The band return cautiously for the similarly regret-laden Another Winter Gone, then slow down even further for Rabbit, a hypnotically swaying, gloomily imagistic portrait of rural decay.
Smith’s dobro lingers over Platt’s gentle fingerpicking and Williams’ judicious piano in Reverie, one of the more wryly funny narratives here. “They burned the city you loved…they talk about mercy, but you ain’t seen her face,” Platt sings in This Night, a defiant call to rebuild that may reference the BLM riots of 2020.
Platt keeps the drifting, starry milieu going in Even Good Men Get the Blues, lit up by a gorgeous Williams organ solo. She offers hope amidst disappointment in Always Knew, a front porch-flavored love song, then brings back the organ and angst in Lessons in Gravity, a makeup ballad.
The band sway their way through Only Just to Smile with a mid-70s Fleetwood Mac vibe and close this long, evocative album on a guardedly optimistic note with There May Come a Day. Their next affordable gig is May 25 at 7 PM at Potters Craft Cider, 1350 Arrowhead Valley Rd. in Charlottesville, Virginia. Advance tix are $20.