The English duo of Lucy and Jon Hart, collectively known as Honey and the Bear, came to my knowledge with this, their second album, released this spring. It was one of those happy surprises when an artificial intelligence (I can’t remember which) recommended an artist to and actually hit the sweet spot.
Journey Through The Roke features really nice cover art, fine performances by the Harts, a group of excellent guest musicians and a dozen songs that take you through very different stories and moods. The dozen songs on the album feature 11 originals and an atmospheric take on My Lagan Love.
This is actually yet another “covid album”; there’s been quite a few from several artists. The duo’s web site tells us that, as the gigs got all cancelled one by one in 2020, they “challenged themselves to write a new song for the first 12 weeks of the livestream, and they successfully managed to produce a second album”.
I hate to say this but it seems these weird and scary times have produced some really good albums where the artists have stretched their boundaries (e.g. Rachel Newton’s and Ailie Robertson’s latest offerings) and taken time to develop their ideas (because what else would a musician do under these circumstances?), and I think this one may well be in that category. It has that now or never quality that seems to fire up the music.
Be that as it may, Journey Through The Roke is immensely lively and entertaining; an album that refuses to do the same thing twice. The ensemble arrangements backing up the duo are rich and positively pulsate on groove tracks like Freddie Cooper and The Flowline. The Swallow literally flies along with swiftness and sweetness and Life On Earth, with its super catchy chorus, flute hook and pointed lyrics, could even be a radio hit (as if actual music could be a hit these days, he muttered to himself, harrumphing). Unless We Start is both a bold climate/environmental statement and a swinging musical treat, a true protest song for the 2020’s.
But the brightest jewel among the songs is, for me, Hungry Sea, a fully realized aural meditation on the fragility of life and, perhaps, survivor guilt. The sparse arrangement is enriched by some tasteful digital work and Lucy Hart sings the poignant tale without overdoing it. It’s one of those songs that truly deserves to be more widely heard than in just the folk music community.
As this was my first encounter with Honey and the Bear, I wish for more in the future. And, on social media, I have been happy to notice they are now back to live performances as the restrictions in the UK have lifted 🙂 I wish them great gigs and good times and hope to review album #3 in the future!
And as for you reading this: the honey jar is open at https://honeyandthebear.co.uk/shop/. Go get yours, CD or downlaod.