By Larry Stephens
I find defining a musical genre useful when describing a song or CD and assessing what an audience will like, though many audiences are fuzzy on genre boundaries. When it comes to my casual listening, I don’t care. That’s good when I listen to the Nouveaux Honkies. The lead cut describes this CD well: “Blues For Country” offers “too blues for country, too country for the blues.” They offer some kind of mixture of both which, I guess, drops them into roots or Americana or some mushy category. My advice is don’t worry about it, just listen and enjoy.
I generally like a CD (and show) that mixes the songs: fast and slow; sad and happy; love and loneliness; and, perhaps, some drinking and violence topped off with some gospel. This CD isn’t that, but I know this is a CD I’ll play over and over. Listen for some witty lines:
The booking man says we gotta be somewhere
and I spent five days in the same underwear
“Life Ain’t Easy” sounds like a good description of their life.
The Honkies are Tim O’Donnell and Rebecca Dawkins, now married, traveling the country from show to show in a renovated RV. O’Donnell does most of the lead singing and plays guitar, harmonica, mandola, and probably anything else that needs played. Dawkins sings harmony or lead and plays fiddle. Her playing has a touch of Cajun sound and is a primary support for the songs.
They are joined on these recordings by a drummer, a bass player and a steel guitar (three tracks). One of those tracks, “Should Have Loved You,” composed by O’Donnell, trades leads between O’Donnell and Dawkins. It’s a story about what love should have been but failed. “Hours Into Days” is in a minor key that grabs your attention with its haunting melody while “Whiskey’s Gettin’ Harder To Drink” is a good song that sounds too old for them — a look back at a life lived fast and easy that has taken its toll. O’Donnell slips in “I need another Tylenol” that reminds the listener to pay attention or you’ll miss some good lines.
“Two Doors Down From Paradise” is a song I need to try to learn and they like it so well they do a moody reprise cut that is very bluesy and nice. A violin is a great instrument for the blues. You can see a more upbeat version on YouTube. The video gives you a good view of O’Donnell’s finger picking the electric guitar.
They even give a very good rendition of the Haggard/Nelson song, “Pancho and Lefty” and switch to a rockish sound (with some excellently arranged musical support) with “Nobody’s Name.” You need to play close attention to “I Know Things You Read About” to catch all the things they have read about.
I’m a fan. Sign me up now for their next release.