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Locust Honey String Band can go home

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., March 12, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The Locust Honey String Band proved that you can come home again, and they sure made it sound good too.

The group, really a duo with a revolving cast of two touring sidekicks, has been based in Nashville since January after having been in Asheville, N.C. But Meredith Watson, who plays National Guitar, acoustic and takes a chunk of lead vocals, grew up in Beantown. And touring banjo maven Grace Van't Hof also inhabited these parts for a while before heading to Asheville.

With family and friends in the crowd, the night did feel like a homecoming.

But it also matters if the music is up to snuff, and on that score, the Locust Honey group filled the quotient.

The band is driven by Chloe Edmonstone on fiddle and Van't Hof on banjo. For a very large portion of the evening, each took muscular turns on their respective instruments to energize the songs.

Behind them touring bassist Sabra Guzman (she did no singing, but did tell one kind of lame joke to kill time while Watson tuned for awhile) set up a very sturdy structure to the songs on her upright.

Edmonstone and Watson may have taken lead vocals with about equal quality (although Edmonstone seemed awfully serious on this evening, not cracking a smile until the end of the night), but the group ably backed up whoever took lead with a duet or at times three-part harmonies, which worked wonders.

Locust Honey may label itself a "string band," but that would be missing the mark. Their web site is more accurate - "Heart-breakin' Country Harmonies and Raging Old-time Fiddle Tunes." They're more readily into bluegrass as well.

No more evidence of the musical diversity would be needed than their choice of covers. That would include Ernest Tubb's "Thanks a Lot" and George Jones' "Just One More" from 1956 and closing the night with the well-known "Sitting on Top of the World," done - fast-paced with a bit more of a country flair and lots of fiddle from Edmonstone yet again.

They also have enough of their own material plus smartly choosing traditional songs ("Henry Lee" with a credit to Nick Cave) while wisely adhering to their basic sound.

Label this a successful homecoming.