Onion Honey’s riproaring, sweet-tart string band music comes with a side of laughs
Onion Honey performs at MooseFest: celebrating 5 years of Roots Music Canada, a one-night festival in honour of this website June 4 at Toronto’s TRANZAC. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7 p.m. Get your tickets HERE
Onion Honey are no strangers to the southern Ontario roots scene, having performed around the region for more than 10 years now.
But their brand new album, Foul Weather Friends, is a milestone for the members for a couple of reasons: it’s their first album featuring mostly original numbers and the first to be recorded in a professional recording studio as opposed to their home set-up.
And not just any studio either: Andy Magoffin’s House of Miracles in Cambridge, ON, whose previous clients include The Weeknd, The Constantines, The Hidden Camera’s, Great Lake Swimmers and Shad.
“We’ve been playing with the same line-up for a few years now, and we had a bunch of new songs so … it just felt like the right time to make a more significant commitment,” Dave Pike explained.
“On a more practical level, we also had been saving up in our band fund for a few years, some donations from our live cast through the pandemic, and things, so we actually had some funds.”
If you were already a fan of the group’s out-of-this-world harmonies and sweet, tart, string-band sound, well this new album is all that with a cherry on top. And that’s before you even get to the songwriting.
The sound is crisp and clean, capturing every pluck of the guitar and banjo strings and every nuance of the arrangements, and Esther and Dave’s vocals are right up front and blend beautifully into the big, bold harmonies.
And the songs? So good. Dave and Esther excel at writing catchy-as-hell little ditties that could easily pass for traditional, and they have a sense of humour that sets them apart from their contemporaries.
Sometimes it’s pretty overt, like on “Vegetable Love,” an ode to farming.
Sometimes, it’s self-effacing, as on “Justified Shuffle,” which jokes about the sorry state of the music business and gets points for including a Marie Kondo reference.
Parodying America’s Test Kitchen?
And then there’s “For Old Henry,” an entire song that’s an inside joke between Esther and fellow readers of America’s Test Kitchen.
“America’s Test Kitchen magazine used to write these, like, folksy, down home letters from the editor that would be like … ‘You have to make sure to go and wish the bees well,’ and things like that – like folksy wisdom that is a little bit unsettling, like, just this side of creepy,” Esther explained.
“And then, this author that I really love, Daniel Lavery, wrote these parodies of them that just took all of the slightly creepy and unsettling stuff and made it fully creepy and unsettling in a very New England Gothic kind of way. So I wrote a song, “For Old Henry,” using some of Daniel’s lyrics but also a bunch of my own.”
She likens the result to “New England Gothic funeral rights.”
Having spent down the band fund to create this extra special recording, Onion Honey is also stepping up the promotion of it this summer, touring intensely around southern Ontario – maybe farther! – and hiring promoters to help get the word out.
We’re super excited to welcome them to MooseFest on Sunday night. Don’t miss their set at 7:50 p.m.