HONEY AND THE BEAR – Journey Through The Roke (own label)

Journey Through The RokeLucy and Jon Hart have stayed mostly true to their native Suffolk coast while recording their second album, Journey Through The Roke, basing several of the songs on stories and characters from the area. Roke is a local term for the evening mist that rises from marshes – what a rich language English is. Although they play all the “structural” instruments and provide all the vocals they have a close group of friends in support: multi-instrumentalist Toby Shaer, percussionist Evan Carson and cello Graham Coe play on almost every track and Archie Churchill-Moss brings his melodeon to eight of them.

The opening track, ‘3 Miles Out’, tells of a boat lost in a flood in 1953 – actually, I suspect the locals think of it as the flood – and eventually recovered, you’ve guessed it, three miles off the Southwold coast. Lucy’s vocals are so powerful on this song. You can’t accuse the Harts of being parochial, however, and in the next song, ‘Buried In Ivy’, they think ahead a hundred years to consider what we might have done to the planet by them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the boat lost in the first song was called Ivy.

‘Freddie Cooper’ is another local story – a rescue carried out by the Aldeburgh lifeboat. I’m not sure if it’s usual to give boats and ships male names but it hasn’t done Freddie Cooper any harm as she/he is still in service at Aldeburgh. The tune has a decidedly Irish feel to it which leads nicely into the one imported song, ‘My Lagan Love’ ‘Life On Earth’ is inspired by the work of Sir David Attenborough and has the most delightfully catchy chorus.

Apparently the first production line was pioneered in Suffolk by one Richard Garrett, celebrated in ‘The Flow Line’. They were a remarkable family; one of Richard’s descendants founded Snape Maltings and another was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first female doctor. ‘The Swallow’ is a musing on the lifestyle of the titular bird and then it’s back to the sea for the story of Violet Jessop in ‘The Hungry Sea’. Who? Violet was a stewardess who survived the sinking of both Titanic and Britannic having previously been on-board Olympic when she was in collision with another vessel. Violet was either very lucky or very unlucky but she lived to a fine old age.

Engineering is referenced again in ‘The Miller’, which praises the Woodbridge tide mill with another catchy chorus and ecology is again their concern in ‘Unless We Start It’. ‘Sweet Honey’ and ‘Your Blood’ are more personal songs, the former about their travels in Cuba and the latter about their nephews.

I described the duo’s first album as an “accomplished debut” which sounds like faint praise now. Journey Through The Roke is, I’m not going to say “a step forward” because that makes things worse, but it is a mighty record. Lucy Hart is a stunningly good singer with one the most powerful voices around and Honey And The Bear are high on my “to see” list when we’re allowed out again.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://honeyandthebear.co.uk/

‘The Hungry Sea’ – live:

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