Album Release Date: 24 October 2011
List Price: $16.98 (Vinyl), $9.99 (CD)
I've waited three years for this album, having become a fan of honeyhoney in 2008 when I downloaded the music video for their debut single, "Little Toy Gun" as a freebie from iTunes. I'm not even sure I had any expectations or even hopes about what this album would be; I just knew I wanted to hear more from this young duo.
Billy Jack is an album, rather than a collection of songs. On my first listen, I was struck by the difference between this and its predecessor, First Rodeo. Where their debut album was energetic and fun, their sophomore outing is more reflective. I wouldn't go so far as to call it brooding, but these songs feel more intimate and thoughtful. It's quite obvious they were written from experience rather than imagination. This may not be an album to throw on during a party, but it's easy to imagine these songs filling a small venue where the audience is seated, listening attentively with a bourbon and Coke.
One of the things that I enjoy about honeyhoney is that they use instruments like the fiddle and banjo. These are hallmarks of country music, but in their hands they recall the recordings of yesteryear. In many ways, this album is more in keeping with the kind of music I've always enjoyed than any of the contemporary country music.
Of course, I would be remiss not to take a moment to lavish vocalist Suzanne Santo with praise. I just love to hear her sing. In the liner notes to Waylon Jennings's Lonesome, On'ry and Mean album, Chet Flippo wrote, "If he sings it, you can believe it." I feel that way about Santo as well. These are not songs written merely to entertain or maybe become a commercial hit.
Sometimes, I find myself guilty of penalizing albums (or movies) for not being replications of their predecessors. Billy Jack does not quite resemble First Rodeo, but it is clearly the product of the evolution of honeyhoney. This album makes me wish I was out on the road with them, making the most of an uncertain way of life with the doubts and successes that go with it.
Note: I received this album free as a member of Lost Highway Records Fancorps. I was not asked to write this review, nor have I been compensated for doing so. I am a fan and would have gladly bought the album anyway.