Released – 27th March 2020
Rating – 5/5
Local Honey is the third solo album from Brian Fallon, the lead singer of the Gaslight Anthem.
For those unfamiliar with Brian’s vocal sound, it’s a jarring mixture of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Jarring because one second you think you’re listening to Dylan, the next Springsteen. It’s brilliantly warm, evocative and impossible not to listen to. Happily, it’s not just a passing attraction, a twee little gimmick to lure you in. His work with the Gaslight Anthem was a personal favorite but his solo work is even more broken-hearted, personal and chock full of emotion.
The album starts us off with “When You’re Ready” where a father speaks to his daughter in the way that parents do. That prophetic talk about their future, when they’re far too young to be listening and far too young to care. He espouses the wish of all parents, that his daughter finds someone who loves her half as much as he does. A simple wish, one all parents share, while he watches his daughter color in wearing her new pj’s. A delightful, thoughtful, snapshot of home.
“21 Days” takes a turn to the more somber. The 21 days is the time it is supposed to take to get over someone. To get to the point where you no longer miss that person. It hits on points that rarely get highlighted in break up songs, forcing yourself to keep busy, making yourself break those habits. It’s a detached and practical kind of break up song rather than the wailing and hair-tearing which is a great change of pace.
“Vincent” sounds like a classic Dylan/Springsteen song if that’s even possible to say. It’s a story from a personal perspective and it’s from Jolene (Though she hates that song) to Vincent. She’s from South Texas and gets in with a guy who beats her. Vincent is the other guy who keeps her going, a friend from when she was a kid, the one maybe she should have been with all along. It’s a final apology from Jolene as she’s about to go to prison for killing her abusive boyfriend, and as such she’s going to leave Vincent, possibly forever. It’s a heartbreaker and it’s perfect.
“I Don’t Mind (If I’m with you)” has Colin Hay vibes and it’s a troubled soul talking to the one person that matters in their life, the one person that makes it all ok, the one you could put up with anything in life as long as they’re there. It lacks the storytelling narrative of “Vincent” it’s more retrospective than of the moment but it’s no less haunting for that. The starkness of the recording with a solitary melody and the pained vocal tells half the story on its own.
“Lonely For You Only” is harder to put a finger on. It’s about a relationship that broke down a long time ago, and the protagonist is looking back realizing that she’s the only person he misses. She was perfect in his eyes. There are hints he’s been a bad boy and “not the only thief hauled up on a cross”. There’s also a suggestion that they’ve done something together that “he’ll take to his death no matter what they do to me”. It gives a nice mystery to the song, a notion that they’re Bonnie and Clyde that had to separate rather than going out in a blaze of glory. And he regrets it.
“Horses” has a slightly different sound, a more ethereal synthy vibe to the guitars and it fits the lyrics. It’s a song of deliverance, of the end, of a peaceful exit from this world. In love, together, and finally taken off somewhere to be free. It’s far less troubled than the last two songs, it’s almost the reward at the end of the life of hardship. Redemption, love and forgiveness reign supreme and it’s all about the good side of the human soul. It’s like hot tea on a bitterly cold day.
“Hard Feelings” is pure Springsteen in the best way. It’s got the signature of the quiet, earnest melody over the haunting solitary vocal. These Jersey boys have got the same soul for sure. This time it’s in the throes of the relationship, not in reflective misty-eyed reminiscence. There are no more hard feelings because they both have taken shelter in each other after being hurt before. “And she calls me baby, like an old romantic” and this, has all the romance of Springsteen and let’s say it, of Fallon. It’s that practical, actual, this stuff happens romance, rather than the god awful schmaltzy hallmark kind. Like the relationship, this song is a keeper.
“You Have Stolen My Heart” brings this frankly outstanding album to a close. It’s a constant refrain of knowing the person before, in another life, is a neat summation of the album. It sounds so familiar on the first listen but it has such great depth you absolutely won’t leave it there. The similarity in sound to Springsteen and the style of the songs is one aspect and it’s not the one you should take away. Every track on this album tells a story, and they are all worth listening to. There’s not a filler track, a twee little upbeat number, or something with a nifty little hook for the sake of it.
Every moment feels like it’s had Fallon’s heart poured into it and that makes the best kind of record. Truly, this is the album of the year so far. Go and listen to it right now.
Review by James Clinch