By Jof Owen
A grand, ambitious album that delivers on its lofty aspirations of being an artsy take on Americana.
I remember the first time I saw Honey Harper. He was playing upstairs above a pub in London, wearing a fringed suit and singing Dusty Springfield while the stage was being dismantled behind him. He was confusing and awkward and absolutely magnificent. He was like an alien that had just beamed down from another planet and decided to become a torch singer.
His first full-length album, Starmaker - a kitschy and playfully futuristic take on cosmic Americana - landed two years later in 2020. It was as if someone in the 70s had made a recording of what they imagined popular country music might sound like 50 years on and it had been dug up in a time capsule.
Now he’s reinvented himself again as Honey Harper & The Infinite Sadness, with a full band fleshing out his acid-soaked West Coast country sound, ditching the playful non-countryisms of Starmaker and chasing something a little more embellished and authentic.
Five years on from the first time I saw him and it feels like all the weirdness is gone, and in its place is something way more impressive, but sadly perhaps a little less charming.
It’s always the same. There comes a point when everyone wants to be taken seriously. Especially men. Men just love authenticity. They like everything hand-pumped and grass-fed. Nothing gets their balls jiggling like the idea of a bunch of dudes in a room rocking out and recording direct to tape.
You can always tell when masculinity is in a crisis because men everywhere start growing beards and taking up manly pursuits like archery and leather-working. Heading out into the woods with a tent and a tin of beans. Wearing gorpcore and raw denim and getting stick and poke tattoos.
Cosmic country is a similar pursuit. It’s basically just bouldering but with guitars. It’s men looking back to a time when masculinity felt less under threat and a little bit more stable; a time when “men could be men”. In country music that time is usually the 1970s, which is coincidentally also the era that everyone looks back to when they’re trying to be “futuristic”. It’s odd how often people talk about wildly reinventing country but just come out of the studio with a record that sounds a bit like Kevin Morby.
The thing is, I know everyone will love Honey Harper and The Infinite Sky and I completely understand what they’ll love about it too. It’s a grand, ambitious album that delivers on its lofty aspirations of being an artsy take on Americana. It’s musically brilliant and accomplished and clever. It’ll sit perfectly in your collection alongside your Wayfaring Strangers compilations and your worn-out copy of Workingman’s Dead.
I know it’s a good record and I know people are going to absolutely love it. I just wish I did too.
Honey Harper & The Infinite Sky is out on Friday 28th October via ATO Records. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below: