Amanda Platt and Co. released one of 2015’s best albums in Me Oh My and promptly (and welcomingly) return almost a year later, on May 20th, with another stellar collection, On The Ropes. The thirteen tracks, all penned by Platt, except a beautifully done rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” solidify her place as one of the strongest songwriters on any scene today.
On The Ropes is brimming with affecting, relatable, and on point lyrics beginning with the title track whose opening line “I’ve been making something out of nothing for a long time now” provides the definitive statement of a woman who has lived and lost, but gained a security with herself and an ability to get through the tougher times. It’s not just Platt’s ability to tap into emotions and experiences so keenly that makes On The Ropes so special, the band’s tight musicianship brings Platt's lyrics to new heights. Tal Taylor’s mandolin adds something special to every song as does Matt Smith’s pedal steel, dobro, and electric guitar while Rick Cooper (upright and electric bass) and Josh Milligan (drums/harmony vocal) expertly keep a precise beat.
Echoing with mandolin and steel, “Blue Besides” tells of someone who gives up on themselves too easily, yet the track is ultimately encouraging, reminding one to pull themselves up (sometimes with a good kick in the pants) and not let failure or mistakes hold you back. Hurt, heartache and sorrow can be found on “500 Pieces," as well as in the bluesy guitar of “Golden Child” which contains this truthful line, “When it comes to heartache I’ve learned to let it ride.” and “The Only Eyes” which conveys the sorrow being away from someone she loves, while also being a woman wanting a relationship on her terms. “I want you to love me, but I wanna say when and I wanna say how much, I wanna know how it ends.”
“Back Row” is a detailed (that introduction recalls Fleetwood Mac), harmonica laced cheating tune while “Useless Memories” is touching and nostalgic, remembering things and events that, even though they do no good now, bring a warmth and familiarity. A love taken for granted is the focus of the understated “Piece of Heaven” where she fully understands what she lost while drowning her sorrows with the lesser angels in the bar wondering how she can get it back. “I never thought love was worth the fight now I’m pulling my punches making up for lost time.”
While Platt excels at stirring, poignant songs, On The Ropes also contains two fun, playful tunes. Aided by the harmonies of the ladies from Sweet Claudette “The Handbook,” with its old-timey feel, is a lighthearted and darling love song. “All I know is when we’re together my heart starts singing and I’m gonna let her/And you don’t have to ask to kiss me/I like it when you taste like whiskey/Makes me feel like I was fifteen.” While “Let’s Get Drunk” is a perfect toe-tappin’ barroom number on which she sings, "And if I'm gonna live with with my choices/I expect that I'll regret at least a few".
On The Ropes is rounded by two immensely emotional tracks, “Ache” and “Barmaid’s Blues”. The former lives up to its title. Raw, aching, haunting and powerful, it will have you in a ball of tears by the chorus because it is so undeniably truthful. “And I never ask you to stay, ‘cause pride won’t allow it/But all of the same I ache oh baby I break when you’re near me my heart starts racing/I can’t think clearly my knees are shaking when you bring your hand to my face and you hold me and whisper my name baby I ache.” The latter closes out the record on a lonesome note as the barmaid sees all of her customers moving on while she’s still alone, but also fully aware that she was “never one to compromise."
With On The Ropes, The Honeycutters deliver an album dealing with trials, persistence, introspection and self-awareness that demonstrate they are anywhere but down for the count; rather they're solid, steady, energized and ready to go a few more rounds.