The day Whitney Houston died I was listening to the new Honeychurch cd, driving on the freeway, formulating a review in my head (to coincide with the launch of this site). Throughout Honeychurch’s history they have received tons of well deserved attention for their covers of The Magnetic Fields, Neil Young, and Dolly Parton. Ah yes, Dolly Parton. The author of “I Will Always Love You” , a song which was made (even more) famous by a certain Miss Houston. I had to laugh as I watched an argument break out on a website over who actually wrote the song – a Whitney fan was in disbelief that Dolly Parton had written this song, a song so associated with Whitney Houston that it was instantly in the charts again once she had passed. Honeychurch – Dolly Parton – Whitney Houston – back to Honeychurch. With their new record “Will You Be There With Me”, Shilough & Larissa Hopwood of Honeychurch have created a masterpiece.

Two instant highlights of the record are covers. “Winter Pageant” a song originally written and performed by The Softies is here transformed into a wistful alt country lament. Whereas the original is a model in restraint, this version has the listener longing to change the past with the crushing reality that it just isn’t possible. The 2nd cover is a song originally performed by Holy Moses entitled “Roll River Roll” on their 1971 self titled album. The original song is a nice little bar room jam that has wonderful guitar by Teddy Speleos of Kangaroo fame (and probably not coincidentally, the father of Honeychurch main man Shilough). The cover has a cleaned up feel to it, highlighting the rolling keyboards and the wonderful vocals. Dare I say, both covers on this record improve on the originals.

In an album full of stand outs, there are a few originals that bear special notice. “Winter Part 1” is a gentle start to the album with sighing country guitars, impressions of snow filled fields, coffee at the dining room table. The refrain “Listen to the words I say” implores the listener to pay attention – this isn’t background music. “Tennessee Valley” has a scorching guitar with a Neil Young vibe. The harmony vocals on the chorus with the refrain “Let’s get together soon…” will have you dreaming of summer nights by the fire with a cold brew in hand. “In Which” is the longest song on the album and is a welcome departure from the classic Honeychurch sound. Sad vocals from Larissa, with the music providing a vibe similar to the band Low. Towards the end of the song the music explodes in a krautrock like vibe that is hypnotic and quite unlike anything else in the band’s discography. Shilough has described the track “Never” as his version of a metal ballad, and I would agree. A wonderful track with forlorn lyrics ending in a musical orgasm of dramatic strings, this is one of the many highlights of the record.

An amazing record, my top release of 2012 so far. Highly recommended.

Verdict – Star Wars IV – A New Hope

For fans of: Neil Young, Mojave 3, Red House Painters, Low, The Stone Coyotes, Sixth Great Lake, The Essex Green, Guppyboy

Tracklisting:

01. Winter Part 1 (3:28)
02. Tennessee Valley (3:30)
03. Miko 2 (4:04)
04. The Dream Is Over (6:14)
05. Before You Leave (3:24)
06. Roll River Roll (4:15)
07. In Which (7:19)
08. Winter Pageant (5:02)
09. A Work Suspended (3:42)
10. Never (6:52)
11. Winter Part 2 (3:33)

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