Two summers ago, a crowd packed into Paulie’s Toasted Barrel to hear the Steep Canyon Rangers in the Best of Bluegrass festival was treated to an opening set by a trio out of Morehead State University’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, The Local Honeys.
Two summers later, now as the duo of Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs, they gigging around the region as much as possible.. Friday night, the duo celebrates the release of its debut album, Little Girls Actin’ Like Men, with a hometown show at the Rowan County Arts Center. With all that’s going on, we popped a few questions by the ladies, who sometimes answered separately, and sometimes answered together.
Q. Little Girls Actin’ Like Men is a fun title. Tell us about it and the album.
Local Honeys: The album is named after a track Montana wrote called, Little Girls Actin’ Like Men, and the phrase just seems to fit us to a t. We run with the boys with a womanly poise in this big ole goofy man’s world. The record has many old-time tunes we’ve learned from living and late Kentucky artists as well as original traditional music.
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Q. How did music start for each of you?
Linda Jean: I was singing before I was speaking. My mama has great taste in music and made sure that I listened to all kinds of music all the time while growing up but I favored and gravitated towards old country and The Beatles. I still do, actually. After my father passed away when I was eight, I developed a post-traumatic stress disorder where I began pulling my hair out. My mama put instruments in my hands and encouraged me to write songs and it helped me cope mentally and physically. It still does.
Montana: I took some music lessons as a kid, but it never seemed to stick. I had a love for all kinds of music spawned by my older brother. He listened to everything from Alice in Chains to Neil Young to Rage Against the Machine. It wasn’t until he got a John Prine CD that I really began paying attention to songwriting and felt that it was something I could do. I got to college and my initial career path didn’t pan out, so I signed up for 3-finger banjo lessons with Raymond McLain at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music. From there, I just kept taking lessons from different mentors and eventually joined the ensembles and graduated with the degree. Never thought I’d be here today playing professionally, writing songs, and having an album released that I helped put together. It’s wild to me and I’m still getting used to it all and making the best out of everything.
Q: Tell us how The Local Honeys formed.
Montana: We met in college around 2012. We were both enrolled in the Old Time String Band at MSU and became friends pretty quickly. Our good friend, Stephanie Jeter, had just moved to Lexington from East Tennessee, and her and Linda Jean started playing gigs together in town. They eventually invited me to come play banjo. We had a lot of fun playing around town, getting to open for the Kentucky Hoss Cats at Willies, Della Mae, and the Steep Canyon Rangers. We all got pretty busy with school and work, gigs slowed down, and we focused more on life outside the band. Linda Jean and I really started playing and writing more in our senior year and once we graduated, by the grace of God, we took off to Ireland for the summer. We hit the ground running when we got back and decided to pursue an album together as a duo. We’ve gotten really comfortable playing with each and we’ve progressed not only as a band, but as individuals, with each other’s help and a slew of other folks who’ve been good to us.
Q: A lot of us remember you opening for the Steep Canyon Rangers in Lexington a few years ago. What has been The Local Honeys’ biggest gig thus far?
Local Honeys: Not sure about the biggest, but one of the coolest gigs we’ve played was in Dublin, Ireland. We spent the summer playing sessions in pubs and word got around that two Kentucky girls were living in the city for the summer playing music. We were invited to the Brown Bread Mix-Tape at the Stag’s Head. This was a monthly show that celebrated any and all artists in the Dublin area. We shared a makeshift stage in a room packed full of people with poets, musicians, comics, and storytellers. The room was dead silent through all the performances and erupted with applause that could be heard way down the street through the open windows. The Irish people were so warm and inviting not only this night, but the whole summer. It was a killer experience and only great things have seemed to follow.
Q: You recently got a really cool letter. What was it, and what did it mean to y’all?
Local Honeys: Shortly after we taught a songwriting workshop for kids in Olive Hill, Kentucky we received a letter from their very own, Mr. Tom T. Hall. After he instructed us to stay away from the shine stills on Tick Ridge where Clayton Delaney lived, he told us that he loved us and that he is proud we are carrying on the storytelling tradition. Obviously we lost our damn minds. If anything, it has aroused our imagination and intensified our writing practices.
The Local Honeys album release show is at 7 p.m. May 13 at the Rowan County Arts Center, 105 East Main Street in Morehead. Amythyst Kiah will open. Admission is $10 adults, $5 students. Visit Thelocalhoneys.com for more information.