Hey Mavis. Honey Man.
Hey Mavis, 2013. Hey Mavis: http://www.heymavis.com/fr_home.cfm
I’m sorry, this is unacceptable. Self-released CDs are not supposed to be this good. This is a breakthrough album if ever there was one, and Hey Mavis deserves national attention, right now, immediately. I’ve enjoyed their previous releases, especially their last one, Red Wine, but Honey Man is their best effort yet, and without doubt one of the best folk albums I’ve heard in several years. No, I’m not a relative.
They work from multiple strengths. Their musicianship is high-level on all counts. I particularly notice Eddie Caner’s fiddle and and Laurie Michelle Caner’s banjo, but everyone does a fine job. Of course, Brent Kirby and Bryan Thomas work with other groups and in other styles of music, and their expertise makes their contributions seamless. The production and mixing are excellent, with most of the credit being given to Don Dixon. The group offers a fascinating variety of moods, instruments, and voices (Laurie Michelle Caner and Brent Kirby share lead vocals), although the overall atmosphere seems to be one of melancholy. I guess songs about lost love, broken hearts, separation, and leaving are likely to lend themselves to that. Thank Laurie, since she wrote the songs (except for Brent’s “Let the Water Do the Work,” which is even more bleak).
Now, don’t get me wrong. Brent Kirby’s vocals are really good, and I especially enjoyed his lead on “Already Down,” which comes closest to rocking out on the album, and “Let the Water Do the Work” is a really fine song. But Laurie Michelle Caner’s voice is simply irresistible, and sends what would be an otherwise excellent album into the stratosphere. She dominates every song where she leads, her high, sweet/salty voice alternately heartbreaking (“Say Hello to Paris”), regretful (“Little Lovebird”), and soaring (“By Your Side”). And her singing on “Song for Suitors” is simultaneously strong and delicate, a neat trick. But I have to make special mention of the title track, which is the crown of the album. Frankly, I’d be amazed to find a more erotic song. Caner’s voice drips sexuality and the torture of desperation, and her harmonies just add to the aching atmosphere. I realize that the lyrics don’t apply, but I hope that somewhere in there she’s thinking about her husband. Of course, I might be way off base, and this could just be a song about beekeeping.
There are no fillers here. Every song is excellent, each in its own way, with strength building upon strength, and each musician contributing to the whole. This is a very satisfying album, and I urge you to give it a listen.
Personnel: Laurie Michelle Caner (banjo, toy piano, lead and harmony vocals), Brent Kirby (guitar, harmonica, drums, lead and harmony vocals), Eddie Caner (violin, fiddle, viola profunda, string sections), Bryan Thomas (bass, Chank-o-Matic).
Tracks: Say Hello to Paris, Honey Man, Already Down, Song for Suitors, Red Hot, By Your Side (Strength and Sword), Let the Water Do the Work, Little Lovebird, Some Old Day, Why Must I, Midnight Train. Lyrics available on the band’s website.
The Grand Wazoo