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Colorado Duo Produces a Taste of Americana Honey (Don’t)

Honey Don't
honeydont.net

Just do the math: divide two into a Bluegrass quartet known as Sweet Sunny South, carry the acoustic flat-top, standup bass, and plectrum banjo, and you get a Paonia, Colorado, husband/wife duo composed of Shelley Gray and Bill Powers—also known as Honey Don’t.

Their set-list and songwriting span a range from the cozy and familiar “Pallet on Your Floor” with a sudden electric burst, to up-tempo originals such as “Big Buck in the Road” and “You Can’t Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”

Honey Don't
honeydont.net

Or as Dave Higgs of Nashville Public Radio puts it, “They’ve developed an immediately recognizable sound–a mixture of Bluegrass and old-time, propelled by sharply crafted tunes with some real meat on them.” Readers of Westword Magazine concurred, voting Honey Don’t one of the top five Bluegrass bands in its 2010 Showcase.

Looking back, the band has done it via unlikely roots/routes. Gray lists her main childhood musical background in Minnesota as tap-dancing lessons, and her parents’ love of lounge LPs by Sergio Mendez and Henry Mancini. Her path didn’t collide with Bluegrass music until a move to Colorado in 1994. Higgs grew up in Mississippi, but didn’t start playing guitar until college at the University of Texas, Austin, and gravitated toward Grateful Dead covers with his classmates. As he often introduces Gray to audiences, “She’s the honey, I’m the don’t.”

In counterpoint to their rocking mode, they’ve also crafted ballads with deeply affecting lyrics about romance and loss, such as the title that shares the band’s name: “I can hear you / You know it kills me when you cry / I could ask you / I could sit and wonder why / But I keep waiting / I don’t know what else to do / I could hold it to the light / Or I could leave it up to you…”

Other numbers deal with love and landscape, including the high-energy “Big Buck in the Road”: “You’re here to tell me, you had a wild night last night / I’m here to tell you, that ain’t nothin’ at all / Now, flyin’ through the shadows in the Colorado moonlight / Singin’ a song about a wrecking ball / We been a-rockin’, honey / We just don’t roll in money / We’re gonna try to kick a hole in the sky…”

But Steve Lutz of the Torrey (Utah) Music Festival boiled the Honey Don’t stage show down to a few choice word pairs: “Amazing performance, great harmony, excellent material, full sound, tasty licks.”

At home with the blazing Americana duo Honey Don’t:

Honey Don’t plays “You Can’t Get Your Kicks on Route 66” during an outdoor set by campfire at Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse:

Honey Don’t perform their original “Big Buck in the Road” at KVNF community radio’s Talmadge Room:

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