Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until it comes along. For three singer/
The owners of the Lodge at Red River, Steve Heglund and Priscilla Frondarina, invited the three to put together a 45-minute set when they all happened to show up at the same time. Mandy and Yvonne had met Hillary in 2009 when her group Soul Kitchen played a Mardi Gras gig at Red River’s Motherlode Saloon, but living far apart and with their own careers to tend, they’d never sung together.
“It was immediately magical,” says Yvonne. “It was evident,” says Hillary. “It was absolutely elevating,” says Mandy.
It elevated them into a trio called hONEyhoUSe, whose remarkable new album, Sun, reflects their individual struggles and celebrates their hard-won triumphs. At the Outpost this Friday, hONEyhoUSe makes its Albuquerque debut and marks the album’s release, and you’d best be prepared to cheer and cry until you’re all used up.
After the set at the Lodge, things gelled for the trio in a way that made it seem like their coming together was “not an accident,” as Mandy puts it.
“We had people saying, Get it together and we’ll fund it,” Hillary says.
She led the trio to John Wall, who runs Wall of Sound Studio. She’d met him at the New Mexico Music Awards, and they’d hit it off. Sitting on his couch, the trio sang what would become the album’s opening track, Yvonne’s “On and On.” He wept, all but demanded to record and coproduce the album, and wondered how he would capture that sound.
Most of the album’s songs—all originals—are credited to two or three members of the trio. Each brought something to the party. Hillary has a trunk full of lyrics in search of music; Yvonne, reams of melodies in search of lyrics; Mandy, songs that she’s never quite polished to her satisfaction. All three had unfinished tunes.
When they got together to write, the pieces snapped together almost magically. The material—a seamless mix of blues, soul, pop, R & B, folk—has a spirit-lifting, redemptive quality. The three very different voices that carry the songs blend their sweetness, rasp and heft into one lovely sound—ergo, the “ONE” and “US” in hONEyhoUSe.
That sound, superbly captured by John, is already getting exposure on the Nashville-based Internet radio station numusic247.com, which features the music of unsigned groups.
Spirits can’t be lifted if they haven’t been low. “Everybody came to this album with some healing that needed to be done,” says Hillary. Recently divorced, she’d spent the previous year getting herself clean, sober and healthy. Mandy had lost her best friend and singing partner, Lindsay Howard, in an automobile accident. Yvonne had lost one of her best friends, Bubba Smith, to a heart attack in January.
Last year, Yvonne shared with Bubba a guitar riff she’d had for 15 years, hoping they’d collaborate on a song. He told her it sounded like the sun, but he died before the song was written.
The night before a hONEyhoUSe recording session, Yvonne and Hillary sat down and started playing with that riff. Hillary quickly began scribbling lyrics, but she says she didn’t have much to do with the process. “Bubba pushed the pen,” she told Yvonne.
The song, with one verse written by Bubba’s widow, Merry, became the title track of the album, and its profoundly emotional performance takes the entire set to another level. At the time this article was written, hONEyhoUSe had not yet found the will to perform “Sun” live, but when they do, it’s bound to light the way to healing for anyone with ears to hear.