Music News & Reviews

The Local Honeys aim for trailblazing traditional music

The Local Honeys are Montana Hobbs, left, and Linda Jean Stokley.
The Local Honeys are Montana Hobbs, left, and Linda Jean Stokley.

Traditional and old-time music typically isn’t thought of as trailblazing. The Local Honeys would like us to think again.

The duo is Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs, the first two women to graduate with bachelor’sdegrees in traditional music from Morehead State University. Last spring, they released their debut album, “Little Girls Actin’ Like Men,” which they’ve been supporting with a number of upcoming Lexington-area gigs, such as Friday night’s Warehouse Block Party, and shows around the region.

In its first iteration, The Local Honeys were a duo composed of Stokley and Stephanie Jeter. The two met while Stokley was attending Morehead State. Jeter had recently graduated from East Tennessee State University and moved to Morehead to teach at the university’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music. Soon after, Hobbs, another aspiring musician at Morehead State, joined the group, transforming it from a duo to a trio that had a high-profile Lexington gig opening for the Steep Canyon Rangers in in 2014. Now, Stokley and Hobbs are the regular members of The Honeys, with Jeter and other guests occasionally sitting in.

“(Montana) was just another student that was a girl that was fun and was wanting to play old-time music, and that was the whole reason for starting this band, so we’d have each other to learn how to play old-time music,” Stokley said. “We’re nerds. We’d go to the archives and sit there for hours, listening to old recordings and totally nerd out to regional music, because there’s all these recordings of old fiddle and banjo players who people had the foresight to record, and if they hadn’t, these tunes would have been lost.”

In her time at Morehead State, Stokley also became close with fiddler Jesse Wells of the Lexington-based band The Wooks; she credits her pursuit of traditional music to him. Wells teaches and works as an archivist at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music.

“(Jesse) is the reason that I am playing traditional music,” Stokely said. “I went to Morehead State to study jazz, and I got signed up for a traditional music class that he was teaching. I heard him play the fiddle and went up to him and said ‘Hey, can you teach me to do that? That’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in my entire life.’ My mom was a five-string banjo player and tried to introduce me to bluegrass music when I was younger, and I wanted nothing to do with it until I heard Jesse.”

Earlier this year, Stokley received national recognition when she won in the bluegrass category of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at the 30th annual Merlefest in North Carolina for her song “Cigarette Trees,” the lead track on “Little Girls Actin’ Like Men.” More than 1,000 songs were submitted. The duo was one of 12 groups to be invited to the festival as a finalist for the competition. Stokley said she and Hobbs got to perform the tune on the festival’s cabin stage in front of the largest audience to ever hear their music live.

“Cigarette Trees” was born after Stokley had been studying protest music at Morehead State with Will Parsons, who asked one day if she’d been writing songs. She said she used to. Parsons asked her to write a song for him. Stokley recalled watching “Sludge,” a documentary about the slurry pond disaster in Martin County, where many of her friends live and can’t drink the water.

“It was heartbreaking, and I felt like I needed to write and sing a song about the woes of the mountains,” Stokley said. “There’s nothing like a good protest song, especially when it’s prevalent in your area, and it just struck a chord with me. I despise the process of mountaintop removal. I’m not anti-coal or for taking anyone’s job away, but there’s just so many ill practices with strip-mining, like fracking, that are quite ridiculous, so I thought, what else is ridiculous? We’d be just as ridiculous to plant cigarette trees and let them burn down the forests rather than clear-cut the land.”

If you go

Warehouse Block Party

What: Evening event featuring shopping, food and music by The Local Honeys, The Star Devils, Caught Red Handed Band, Stephanie Jeter and more.

When: 5-10 p.m. June 16

Where: Warehouse Block, 309 N. Ashland Ave.

Admission: Free