John Pedigo and Taylor Young make up The O’s and describe themselves as “Dallas’ best and best-known roots group” and I’m not about to argue with that! ‘Honeycomb’ is their fourth album and was again produced by Grammy-nominated Chris “Frenchie” Smith who’s probably best known for his work with the legendary Meat Puppets and helmed their previous album, ‘Thunderdog.’
The band are a hardworking unit and usually maintain a 150 gig a year touring schedule that’s been a constant since their inception in 2008 and Honeycomb demonstrates a further leap forward, sonically and lyrically, for the Texan duo.
Their chief strength for me is the spirited nature of their playing they certainly go all out, and the banjo playing is more bluegrass than country but they clearly believe in the power of rock n roll too. They write some fine songs although they aren’t wildly original. It’s perhaps a little lazy to say that they sound a little like the Pogues but that distinctive banjo twang puts them somewhere in that territory.
The album kicks off with a laugh and then we’re into ‘Fourteen Days’ that cuts in with some soaring vocals and guitars, strumming alongside ‘three chords and the truth’, it’s a breezy romp enlivened with some wailing harmonica and the first of many banjo solo’s (and that’s NOT a bad thing!).
The musicianship throughout the twelve songs is superb and the vocals are tremendous too. There’s nary a pause for breath before a change of vocalist leads us into ‘Medicine’ which cheesily compares love to medicine, which I suppose in a cute way, it is! The banjo is again prominent but there’s a weeping pedal steel in the background and breathy backing vocals. ‘Brand New Start’ is another ‘Oh no, my love has deserted me’ tune but it’s pretty enough and has a catchy sing-a-long chorus and a plea, you’ve guessed it, for a brand new start.
‘Go Slow’ has a different feel and an interesting juxtaposition of wild electric guitar and the faithful banjo that reflects their instrumental chops no doubt sharpened by the incessant touring. It’s that instrumental prowess that comes across clearly here and they’re a band I’d love to see live.
‘Halfway Sideways’ and ‘Burning Red’ are both classy pop style songs that strangely recall Teenage Fan Club! The later has a great searing vocal line and the guitars sound crisp and clear. I think that the following track ‘Reaper’ is my favourite on the record. It’s slightly slower paced with the pedal steel gliding through the mix and a lovely vocal. The story is a little vague but seems to be about waiting for the grim reaper’s appearance in the hope that death can be staved off permanently with the power of love. Good luck with that one boys!
‘Running on Fumes’ kicks off with a count in and some thundering bass and drums with the banjo again taking a central role. The album ends on ‘Wanted’ with a plea to the loved one to understand how important they are in our singers existence. Something we all perhaps feel but don’t say enough, it’s accompanied by some great playing that underlines how much the band love to play and that they can deliver a set of great tunes with excellent vocals and several dollops of passion, fire and verve.
This isn’t the most original album you’ll hear this year but it possess enough of the right stuff to be worthy of your time and will repay repeated listening.
See you at the next gig.....