Album Review: Hold On Honeys, “Hold On Honeys Live at the Jive Hive”

Ever since their first live performance at Troy Foundry Theatre in June 2021, Hold On Honeys have been captivating the Capital Region’s attention with their warm vocal harmonies. An indie folk minimalist vocal trio based in Troy, N.Y., the members of Hold On Honeys include Emily Curro, Raya Malcolm, and Shannon Rafferty. On September 9, Hold On Honeys released Hold On Honeys Live at the Jive Hive, which was recorded at Jive Hive Live in Albany on June 14, 2022. So, let’s dive into the new album.

Photo by Zach Durocher

The album opens with an acapella track, “Across the Blue Ridge Mountains.” The Honeys spend the first 30 seconds of the track building up to full volume, starting with soft, quiet vocals, leading up to a bigger sound. Although the track is over five minutes in length, every second is worth it. Described by the Honeys as “our souls in digital form for all to hear,” it is clear that these three women have a deep connection with one another. From listening to the first track, the listener can tell that the girls’ harmonies are tightly knit and on pitch. In the final minutes of the track, the high vocal range of the members of Hold On Honeys is most apparent.

“If you’re here tonight, it’s because we love you,” a member of the trio states right before they begin to sing “Tennessee River Runs Low.” This number includes appearances from their trio of instrumentalists – guitarist Matt Malone, banjo player Michael Gregg and fiddle player Connor Armbruster. The minimalist instrumentation makes sense for an indie folk trio – any more instruments than what is present would most likely drown out the Honeys’ luscious harmonies. There are quite a few haunting elements to this tune – from the staccato strumming of the guitar in the beginning, to the climatic ending where the instruments and vocals rise in a crescendo. The darker vibe of this song is reminiscent of “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals.

Photo by Zach Durocher

The vocal dexterity of the Honeys shines through most in tracks such as “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” and “Calling My Children Home,” where the trio showcases their powerful, raw vocal talent. The women know how to use the colors in their voices at just the right moments, such as in “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” where they sing “Go to sleep little baby” as if they are actually singing to a sleepy baby. The trio is reminiscent of indie folk group Mountain Man, whose similarities can be heard in tracks such as “Chicago.”

There is one original song on the record entitled “Knowing,” written by Raya Malcolm herself with harmony arrangements done by the Honeys. A melancholic tune depicting an ending relationship, the details in Malcolm’s lyrics invigorate the senses. One of my personal favorite moments on the entire album being “I know how to live alone / How to light the coals / And unplug the phone.” The little details when someone is going through troubling times with a lover are perfectly captured in these lyrics.

A personal favorite of mine, I was most excited to hear the Honeys’ rendition of “Hot Knife” by Fiona Apple. As expected, the trio did not disappoint. There are multiple layers to this song, which makes the Honeys’ cover of it even more impressive. Harmonizing is no easy feat – but Hold On Honeys harmonize with each other flawlessly, and are skilled in layering these harmonies in creative ways. Harmonizing is a particularly difficult thing to do in a live setting, which is why it is hard to believe this album, in all of its richness and warmth, was recorded in front of a live audience.

Photo by Zach Durocher

When the album ends with the words “that’s a wrap for the Honeys,” the listener can’t help but want to hear more. Hold On Honeys Live at the Jive Hive is everything a live record should be – authentic and inviting, tied together with fierce passion from everybody involved. From the vocal nuances that differ with every song to the sisterly connection of Curro, Malcolm and Rafferty, Hold On Honeys have proven they deserve a place in the folk realm with their newest release. Be sure to check out the album on the Honeys’ Bandcamp and YouTube, and don’t miss their upcoming performance at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on the Charles R. Wood Gazebo stage for Caffe Lena on Sunday, October 2 at 11:30 A.M.

Listen to Hold On Honeys Live at the Jive Hive

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