A complex, well-written double-album that deserves your attention.
In what appears to be an album culled together from various singles released over the last couple years, Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters have confidently put forth a double-album of 20 original tracks, all written by the esteemed Ms. Platt, entitled ‘The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ now out on Organic Records, part of the Crossroads Label Group.
Upon several contemplative listens, these songs tend to grow on you with time. Platt sings confidently throughout this album, and some songs resonate with a mature poignancy which is the true talent of this songwriter, who has obviously put much time and care into her craft. In form, we are offered a fairly open-sounding country record, in the Nashville style, which has exciting flourishes on the first disc, The Devil, at times. Platt and band lean into it just a bit more for a stand-out cut entitled ‘Great Confession.’ The song hits a bit harder than the rest with some great harmonies, a driving tempo, and Platt really shines in all her vocal splendour with some passionately sung choruses. It’s also quite nice when the band does the laid-back 70’s Stones-ish vibe on the fun tune ‘Dallas’ with its quite pleasing rootsy, classic Americana styling. Co-producer, Evan Martin, who also plays drums, keyboards and backing vocals – is to be recognised for not only his own playing skills on this record, but for that of all the lovely instrumentation and song arranging herein, which more-than-adequately supports Platt’s lyrics and singing talent.
The second disc, The Deep Blue Sea is heavily acoustic – and perhaps could be labeled as more mellow, and atmospheric given its more-introspective country-folk songs. Again, a few cuts stand out and are easily deserving of multiple listens. Platt’s lyrics on ‘Rabbit’ bring to mind Gillian Welch, and the reverb-soaked guitars, pedal steel flourishes, and strumming of a woody, acoustic guitar really set the mood. The writing here is captivating, as can only be done by a songwriter who can truly slow down time, be fully-present in otherwise simple moments and then translate deeper meaning into song form. Another tune from the second disc, ‘Even Good Men Get the Blues’ is beautiful in its soulfulness, as she sings “his pain is like an 18-wheeler, that’s a lot of heavy to slow down.” Kevin Williams does a solid job on the harmony vocal, and Matt Smith on pedal steel is simply perfection with his less-is-more approach. The Honeycutters truly do serve the song here.
Platt tries to explain the double-disc set and its conceptual genesis so we can understand the track sequencing and overall message intended. “I’ve always liked that saying. For me, the two groupings of songs represent different sides of the creative process, with The Devil including the more manic, upbeat, outgoing – maybe event grotesque at times – and The Deep Blue Sea being more reclusive, contemplative, understated. As an artist I’ve spent a long time judging myself when I’m at either extreme, so it’s nice to have an opportunity to celebrate the balance they provide one another. As a good friend of mine put it, ‘Sometimes you’re drowning in The Deep Blue Sea and you need The Devil to pull you out.” That said, we are now left wondering if perhaps it’s an even better listen in reverse order. You decide.
In today’s world of instant-gratification, from streaming, digital downloads, etc. it’s refreshing to see this more-traditional, well-packaged and concepted album release. According to Platt, “I also grew up in the nineties, and have always been a stickler for the way things fit together, how one song flows into the next on an album. And so I will say that, even if CD’s seem to be going the way of the dinosaur, I am extremely satisfied to have something to show for these past two years, a body of work that makes sense to me and gives these songs a home.” Kudos to Platt, her more-than-capable backing band, The Honeycutters, and also to Organic Records / Crossroads, for giving the Americana listeners a very classy album release we can all embrace, traced thoughtfully from the good ‘ol DNA of all great things that came before.