If there is still such a thing as alt-country, a genre that pushes back past the polished pop-country of today to classic honky-tonk twang, with more than a little rock groove mixed in, then Amanda Anne Platt is one of its best practitioners.
As a singer, she’s blessed with a Lucinda Williams-style honey-toned drawl, and as a songwriter, she rarely makes a misstep. On the new self-titled album by Platt and her band, The Honeycutters, she’s penned 13 rough-hewn gems awash in heartache, second chances, old wounds, and small victories, leavened by a subtle, what-the-hell sense of humor and an unerring sense of melody.
On “Brand New Start,” a loping ballad about giving a probably doomed relationship one more try, that humor pokes its head out, with Platt wryly asking if she and her ex can “leave the last five years out of it / Can we open up our hearts?” On the raw, guitar-driven rocker “Diamond in the Rough,” she says, “If you have heart / Every once in awhile you’re going to have a little heartbreak,” breaking the core concept of country music into just a couple of lines. As a whole, the album, the band’s fifth, is easily their strongest and most mature work to date, bathed in glowing Hammond organ, unvarnished riffs, and an endless series of unforgettable choruses.
It’s also the first album where Platt’s name appears out front, as opposed to simply using “The Honeycutters.” It’s something that Platt has resisted doing for a while, despite being the sole singer and songwriter for the group, but with the band’s encouragement, she decided it was finally time.
“I’m now the only original member of the band,” she says, “and I’ve always written the songs, which is why we’d talked about it before. But it still wasn’t an easy thing for me to imagine.”
But it wasn’t just about the lineup. Platt’s level of confidence as a writer and performer helped her make the decision, as well.
“I feel like I’ve come into my own more,” she says. “I’m in my 30s now, and I feel comfortable in my own skin. The idea of showcasing myself as a songwriter is more palatable to me now.”
“I’m now the only original member of the band, and I’ve always written the songs, which is why we’d talked about it before. But it still wasn’t an easy thing for me to imagine.” –Amanda Anne Platt
Often when a band releases a self-titled album, it’s because it’s representative of their sound, or perhaps that it’s their strongest work yet. In The Honeycutters’ case, it was more practical than artistic.
“It seemed like a lot to put Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters on the front of the album and THEN an album title,” she says with a laugh. “We thought we would ease into it with it being self-titled.”
Platt and the band are returning to the Upstate to play The Spinning Jenny on Friday as part of a series of shows with the progressive bluegrass band Town Mountain. It will be the second time the two Asheville, N.C.-based bands have toured together, and Platt says it’s for both musical and personal reasons.
“We’re all buddies, so it’s really fun,” she says. “We’ve all known each other a long time on the Asheville music scene, and one of the lamentable things about being a musician is when you’re touring you don’t get to see your friends very often. So when you can carve out a tour like this to hang out with your friends, it’s fun to have that time.”
As for the musical blend, progressive bluegrass and alt-country might not sound like the most natural mix, but Platt says she sees some similarities between the two bands.
“I think we complement each other well,” she says, “because we both draw on traditional forms of music like country and bluegrass but expand it and modernize it a bit. I think there is diversity there in that Town Mountain does more of the traditional bluegrass thing and we have more of an electric sort of band, but I think just by the fact that we’re all writing original music, there’s an edge to it that’s not quite as traditional, even if we’re using traditional instruments.”
Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, Town Mountain
When: Friday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m.
Where: The Spinning Jenny, 107 Cannon St., Greer
Tickets: $14 adv/$17 door
Info: 864-469-6416, thespinningjennygreer.com