self titled – Honkytonk Homeslice
Sci Fidelity 1041
I'll admit that the name threw me rather far away from the music at
first. "Christ. Really? Honkytonk Homeslice? Alright, then.
But it better be damn good or make me wanna drink, at least." It
didn't. This is the story of a band who must overcome a bewildering
bad band name through sheer talent. They come close. Damn close.
There are some good songs here. Really, very good songs. Three
songwriters are showcased, all of them displaying different strengths:
String Cheese Incident guitarist Bill Nershi's back-to-basics bluegrassy numbers, disarmingly fluid guitar
and much improved lap steel and dobro work; Scott Law's bluesy
acoustic ditties and commandingly adventurous mandolin playing; and
Jillian Nershi's delicate swaying folk songs and soft voice. This is
more than a platform for three songwriters to show their own stuff,
it's a band with good command of all the material who manage to step
up and make a good album that is a fine representation of some
deceptively prodigious talent. This is no pet/side-project for a busy
purveyor of cheesey jams. This is honest music made with no fluff or
modern pageantry. It's people in a room playing and it
sounds thrilling in the way its thrilling to walk by someone on the
street playing music that stops you in your tracks with its unexpected
bare beauty. The talent isn't carefully captured and corralled for
maximum impact. It sounds great, but its just talent. Sometimes that's
all you need.
"Shot In the Blue" opens the album with a testament to perseverance
and chance, as the title suggests. Scott law's song has Nershi
carrying on a dobro, while Jillian's soft voice meshes
against the song's melody rather well. The sublime acoustic
instrumental "Sweet Peach" which proves (as was done with "Orion's
Belt" on Untying The Knot) Nershi's sublime talent for
understated, simplistic instrumentals that can carry the listener to a specific
mood so effectively it warrants repeated listens. The guitar playing
is intricately laid down finger-style and executed commandingly, but
Nershi's presence is soft enough to make the song more about the
melody than the playing.
Bill Nershi's "School Bells" is just the most
fun and is the best candidate for happy-dancy good times, with fellow
Cheese-mate Keith Mosely layin' down a very Van Morrison-like bass
line that makes one wanna put a smile on for no reason other than
because it just seems appropriate. It also carries with it the most
inspired interchanges between the musicians, with the guitars sliding
and bending together in a wirey blend of comfort and thrill. A few
fall flat: Jillian's "Another River" is just too soft to matter much
and Bill Nershi's other instrumental "Magnolia Road" lacks a melodic
narrative, which any instrumental needs to stand on its own feet.
"Bear Creek Blues" is true bluegrass, with the mandolin getting the
Law laid on it and Nershi playing a very non-bluegrass solo that seems
just perfect anyhow because with this kind of music Bill Nershi lays a
claim and comes up with gold, regardless.
Its simple pleasures all around on this album. Sweet harmonies and
well-constructed song's with fine-tuned, playful execution. There is
something to be said for simplicity. In a world where that term is
more a commodity than a reality, this album goes against the grain
rather smoothly and that's somehow refreshing. Simple pleasures.
Sometimes that's all you need. That, and a decent band name.