High up on Claverton Hill on the outskirts of Bath is the bucolic setting of The American Museum in Britain. Established in 1961 with the aim of educating the UK, and the world, about American cultural history, it was perhaps fitting that this was the final venue for Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters on their first ever UK tour.
After zig-zagging across the UK, playing small intimate venues as far afield as Dorset and Edinburgh, Amanda found time before this final gig to give her thoughts on the tour.
“This has been an amazing tour. We really didn’t know what to expect when we came over but the positive vibes we received in advance about ticket sales allowed us to be cautiously optimistic. We have been so excited by the enthusiastic reception we have received everywhere we have been. All the venues have been excellent with a number of them sold out. The fact that we have played venues with a solid reputation for hosting great music means that hopefully we will have added new fans to those who came just to see us. We have drunk too much cider at the fantastic Square & Compass in Dorset and eaten too many fish & chips in the north of England! This has been as good as we could possibly have hoped for.”
Amanda was being modest; the official word on the tour is that it has been a fantastic success with a mountain of positive feedback.
This final venue was a challenge for Amanda and the band with a very limited PA system meaning that only Amanda had a microphone and one which didn’t really allow her to show off that gorgeous voice to its fullest extent. For the band members; Matt Smith on pedal steel and Stratocaster, Rick Cooper on bass, Josh Milligan on drums and Evan Martin on keys and Telecaster, this mattered not. Musically they were spot on with Josh’s harmony vocals clearly heard even without a mike.
Opening with the first track from the new album, Birthday Song, the gig captivated a rapt audience of around 100 from the off. Unsurprisingly the gig featured a number of songs from that new album but, with a back catalogue that numbers 5 albums in 8 years, the show also allowed the band to feature older tracks. If some bands evolve a sound over the years that exposes weaknesses in their earlier material then this is a criticism that could never be aimed at The Honeycutters. Call it Appalachian honky tonk, country rock, folk or Americana, the quality and consistency of Amanda’s song writing is a great thing to behold.
Jukebox, from the 2015 release Me Oh My and a brilliant honky tonk version of Hank Williams’ Hey Good Lookin’ allowed Matt to showcase his talents on pedal steel but to single out one band member seems wrong when they are as musically as tight as this. The one hour gig flew by and the highlights were many but a word for the final, pre-encore number, The Road. A beautiful closing track on the new album, here it was sung unplugged with just Amanda, Rick on acoustic guitar and Josh on harmony vocals. A spellbinding two-and-a-half-minute performance that got the ovation it richly deserved.
If anything highlights the consistency of Amanda’s song writing then it was perhaps fitting that, for what was clearly an unrehearsed encore song, she chose Marie, a song from the first album dating back to 2009.
At one stage, when introducing the song Eden, Amanda joked that the American Museum in Britain was a perfect venue for a song about the American dream and that perhaps they should have been advertised as an exhibit. Well if, in a museum celebrating American culture, they wanted to showcase the best in American music, they could do far worse.