Honey Harper: with “Starmaker”, the esthete rings

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The milky skin, the first name of honey, all indicates that one holds there a cowboy with the tender feet, and the songs do not contradict. Honey Harper, 30, practices a country music filtered by the shutters of exile and the distant memories of high plains fantasized through the family disco. Settled in London for five years, this native of Adel, Georgia, grew up in Florida and then in Atlanta, and while he was still called William Fussell his first electric steps led him to punk rock and art- pop, before a kind of almost mystical late revelation: “I was near a lake in Ontario, Canada, when I started composing the songs for my first EP [[Universal Country, released in 2017]. My wife advised me to go this country route, and it came out spontaneously, with surprising ease. Until then, making music was always a form of suffering, this time I only felt contentment, I felt like I was finally at home. “ To return there, in any case, since at home, the Fussells listened to Waylon Jennings and Patsy Cline, and that before even being born the baby Will was entitled to songs by Elvis that his father tried to him to make hear, a loudspeaker plated on the uterus of madam.

Madness. By joining the surnames of his two grandmothers, Honey and Harper, the boy under the influence was grafted wings to better observe all this in height, without the bumpy imagery that sticks to the heels of the genre, the distance and the unorthodox means of achieving this creating a kind of halo explicitly represented on the cover Starmaker, his first album. “I probably wouldn’t do this music if I had stayed in the USA”, he said, modestly assuring that his macadam cowboy also allowed him to be spotted in England even before his repertoire sparked in the offices of artistic directors. The genetic combination of Starmaker does not correspond to that of the young country-folk cowherds who stayed in the village. For Harper, the luminescences that pierce Green shadows or In Light of Us are the curious product of a fascination for Turner’s painting and the mysterious sounds of the Apollo by Brian Eno, with Daniel Lanois guitars for landmarks in his little personal cosmos.

To put a bit of madness in his capsule, he summoned a French backlash frenzy, Sébastien Tellier, who notably brings his touch (and his voice) to the title song that closes the album: “This track, Starmaker, looked like Flying Burrito Bothers at the start, there was pedal-steel and the whole group playing together. But Sébastien’s visit gave him what I was hoping for: the illusion of hearing Frank Ocean singing country music. I’m not a backward-looking guy, I don’t want to be seen as just another copy of Gram Parsons. I wanted to make a modern country album, which sounds like an XXI recorde century.” The figures of the past whom he summons are so baroque and confrontational that it will be difficult to accuse him of narrow-mindedness. The glitter makeup he wears on certain photos, for example, was inspired by both Todd Rundgren, pop demiurge and whimsical prog of the seventies, and by Olivia Newton-John, heroine of his mother who passed him by. Grease endlessly (“Including Grease 2, my favorite”) between two layers of Willie Nelson or Glen Campbell.

But his secret, his intimate grail of a cowboy dreaming of the stars, has the name (predestined) Mariangela Celeste. An Italian-Greek singer chaperoned at the time by Vangelis Papathanassiou, and whose only album, failed in the mid-1970s, combines a Karen Carpenter reed song with the moving electronic landscapes of the ex-Aphrodite’s Child. If the singer, whom he has never met, appears in the credits of the very floating Vaguely Satisfied, it is because he wanted to give back to its owner the stumbling block of this divine inspiration. A few days after the interview, Honey Harper will send us a triumphant message to announce that the cherub album, which was not available on any platform, would soon benefit from a reissue, to which its proselytism is probably no stranger.

Organ. Another voice, very present in the studio, is heard on Someone Else’s Dream : that of Canadian singer Austra, in the modernized tradition of these Porter Wagoner-Dolly Parton duets, a whirling ball organ for the vaguely Lynchian touch. On stage, it is with his wife, Alana Pagnutti, that he sometimes performs in a simple camera, she who was more than decisive in the milky line of her path: “She specializes in modern and contemporary art, she wrote a book on John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg and it was she who designed the entire visual part of the album, in addition to giving me a decisive helping hand on the lyrics of several songs. “ One of them, Tired Tower, could be used as sesame for Honey Harper’s mainstream discovery, like superfluous testosterone-free Chris Isaak.

Christophe Conte

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