I doubt that Georgia born Honey Harper has much trouble getting in touch with his feminine side. With his long, soft blonde hair and delicate features he looks gayer than the Brokeback Mountain cowboys ever did.
It means that this record is refreshingly free of any macho pretensions. For instance, he sings the romantic title track with a man, French singer Sébastien Tellier, intoning. "I know you want more, but it's hard to know what you want it for".
Harper, real name William Fussell, describes his music succinctly, and accurately, as "celestial honky-tonk".
Sensitivity is the keynote on this debut LP which was inspired by the Joni Mitchell's song ‘Free Man in Paris’ in which Joni sang of striving to discover the "starmaker machinery behind the popular song".
Harper's songs, co-written with his wife, Alana Pagnutti, explore this 'machinery' insofar as it relates to fame, fortune, and fears of failure. It was recorded over a three year period in Paris, Budapest (with the Hungarian Studio Orchestra), and London (where he is now based) with co-producer Katie O’Neill.
The aesthetics are pure country complete with heavy melancholy melodrama but the atmospheric songs are also defined by a strong pop sensibility. Harper has previously been in shoegaze band, Mood Rings, and synth-popsters Promise Keeper.
The vocoder in the hazy drift of the opening track, Green Shadows reveals that the influences behind these past projects haven't been entirely abandoned.
For me the album highlight is Something Relative, a bleak but beautiful ballad about a friend who died of an overdose which includes the devastating lines: "it so hard to tell how bad it felt, that last night as you lay in your hell".
In other tunes, the pedal steel glam of In Light Of Us and the plaintive dreaminess of Tomorrow Never Comes make this a form of country album that will appeal to those who say they hate country music.