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Music Review - 'Threadbare` by Honey Don't (jh)

Honey Don't - Threadbare (click on image to watch video)

2 March 2022 


Honey Don’t is a five-piece string band that originally formed in Colorado but now call their home central Oregon.  They have a relaxed, comforting acoustic sound driven by its two principals – Bill Powers (vocals, guitar, mandolin) and Shelly Gray (vocals, upright bass). Benji Nagel (vocals, dobro), CJ Neary (fiddle), and Don Hawkins (snare) round out the quintet for their third release, Threadbare, after an eight-year hiatus. As such, many of these songs were either written while based in Colorado, or that locale is indelibly printed in their approach as indicated by “Red Mountain Pass,” “Big Water Ahead,” “Ain’t No Damn Up on Yampa,” “Daybreak on the Muddy,” and “Denver Ramble.” 

While the instrumentation reads as bluegrass, theirs has elements of folk, country, western swing, and yes, bluegrass too. It’s timeless music that fits as easily in the early to mid-twentieth century as it does now. Like bluegrass though, it seems that the three vocalists are all sharing one mic as Powers voice is just slightly more prominent than the others, giving it a carefree approach that becomes instantly infectious in a just-pull-up-your-chair way. They have kind of a sneaky way of making this ageless music fresh.

The bulk of the songs are theirs except for the opening “Eight More Miles” form Kieran Kane and “Wrong Way to Run” from Willy Tea Taylor. The Kane tune proves to be the perfect introduction as it creates the relaxed, harmonious vibe. At times the band grows more enthusiastic, almost giddy on tunes such as the rather raw “Denver Ramble” and the brimming “Big Water Ahead,” the latter as if sung as a half cautionary warning/ half presaging excitement from a white-water rafting guide on the Colorado River. “Red Mountain Pass” downshifts the tempo as the instruments mesh well to create a sustained energy behind a more serious cautionary stance although the chorus still exudes a carefree attitude – “The Lord’s gonna take me when he wants me.”

The opening to the ballad “Ain’t No Damn Up on Yampa,” evoked The Band’s “Ain’t No Cane on the Brazos” but quickly moved away from that riff as the Nagel and Neary deliver a superb dobro-fiddle combination that paints the sorrowful backdrop.  From here the album kicks into more upbeat fare with the clever wordplay of “Five Foot Four from Fort Worth,” the easy rolling singalong “Anything for You,” the confessional, steadfast title track, and the celebratory “Wine, Whisky, Beer, and Gin.”

Rather than sustain the blissful pace, they step back with more sensitive fare in “For the Roses” and fiddle/dobro imbued “Wrong Way to Run.” Yet, “High Country News Girl” has the band flying at their gleefully fastest of all with outstanding dobro picking from Nagel. There’s little choice but to take a breather after that one and the band closes with a touching instrumental, “Daybreak On the Muddy,” with solos from mandolin, dobro, and fiddle.  As the tune fades out, they leave us wanting more, attesting to a job well done.


Jim Hynes



Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here


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