Honey And The Bear – Journey Through The Roke: Album Review

Honey And The Bear – Jon and Lucy Hart – take a trip through unknown territory. Will they survive? Read on…

Release date: 23rd April 2021

Label: Independent

Format: CD / DL

A smoke mist that rises in the evening from marshes and water meadows. That’s the roke. A thought that conjures up the threat of sea frets in the Woman In Black and Conan Doyle’s classic bog, the Grimpen Mire. You can understand why a journey through said roke could be treacherous and possibly fatal.

Just as Seth Lakeman and Ninebarrow do their own bits for tourism in Devon, Dartmoor and Dorset, Honey And The Bear do their bit with songs of Suffolk. Actually, I saw them last on tour with Sam Kelly and his Lost Boys, it’s no surprise that Lucy and Jon Hart’s stringed instruments and vocals are joined by a handful of Lost Boys. Having had several playing on their debut album it’s a fruitful relationship.

The new album trades on stories of survival, enduring and overcoming physical hardship that ultimately come balanced with love, friendship and the joys of the natural world. Eleven originals songs and a trad arr find the duo supplemented musically by the multi-tasking multi-talented Toby Shaer who’s all over the album and surely deserves the mantle of unofficial third member of the duo; Graham Coe providing the low end on cello, Archie Churchill-Moss pops some melodeon on over half the tracks and Evan Carson takes a break from his raft full of bands to provide his highly rated and highly in demand percussion. To be fair, it’s a massive kaleidoscope of intricate sounds that encompass the expected folk elements, but also criss-cross with country, rock and nudging into the mainstream.

Several numbers stand out even on first listen. The spacey reverb of the electric guitar on Buried In Ivy gives an ethereal wash to the arrangement. Yes, it may be inspired by thoughts of the pollution filled world we are leaving as a legacy, but it’s beautifully balanced with a tranquil soundscape.

Not the first song about a heroic lifeboat rescue, Freddie Cooper is a dancing folky-rocker – how I’d like to hear the Lost Boys rock out on this one – where Toby Shaer pulls in his Cara Dillon Celtic connections, not for the first time. In fact it’s that whistle and flute sound that makes a distinctive mark on this album along with the electric guitar wash that surfaces again on My Lagan Love. That drone melody that’s been a part of She Moved Through The Fair and is perhaps best known from Simple Minds’ Belfast Child, always brings a chill.

The double bass and cello get their ‘almost solo’ moment in leading on The Miller. A funky little number that you have to strut or shimmy along to in a contemporary rootsy Robert Plant fashion while some bluesy Shaer fiddle adds a tasty sprinkle. That Planty thought hangs around for a while with the ethnic and far Eastern (rather than Suffolk Eastern) influenced rhythms on Unless We Start It. A sawing fiddle and bubbling percussion. By now, if you need a reference point for the sound the duo creates, think of Phil Henry and Hannah Martin in Edgelarks, particularly when the banjo kicks in for the pairing of Life On Earth and The Flow Line (they’ve even been name-dropped by David Attenborough, inspired by his Life On Earth to write a song of the same name both of which provide, in their own way, a window to the world). The latter’s another which would fit very nicely thank you on the next Lost Boys set.

Partnered with their Made In The Aker (Aker – a turbulent current) one wonders what the duo will come up with next to complete an enlightening trilogy. Whatever it may be, Honey And The Bear for sure have a way of grabbing the attention. Now, review written, it feels like there’s still much more to discover on this journey through the roke. The gift that keeps on giving.

Here’s the video for River Man from their Made In The Aker album:

Honey And The Bear online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

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