4.5 out of 5 | Local Honey | (Lesser Known Records)
Brian Fallon has never been so vulnerable. His third solo effort, Local Honey, fuses the pitter-patter of his heartbeat with the kind of intimacy felt through albums like Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball and Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, both evident benchmarks for this release. His songwriting burns into the atmosphere in a way that never has before; perhaps, that’s largely owed to the minimalist framework ─ or lies in his emotive vocal twists. Either way, Fallon’s words grind you to a halt.
“I paid for my sins / ‘Til the blood filled the room / I don’t feel any better now,” he stokes emotional flames on the icy “I Don’t Mind (If I’m With You).” He chooses his phrasing delicately, but he’s rarely calculated, if at all. His voice tumbles loosely around excruciatingly beautiful lyrics, and it’s hard not to feel such ache swelling in your own chest. He tries his best to extinguish pain, as he does so with the real heartbreaker, “21 Days.” He wails into the night, wrestling away from bad psychological spirals, “When it’s over, we do the leaving / We do the crying / We do the healing / And they say 21 days until I don’t miss you.”
Fallon ─ alongside producer Peter Katis (Death Cab for Cutie, The National, Interpol) ─ tinkers with familiar rhythms and melodies, tugging his velvet snarl across hard gravel. Songs like “When You’re Ready,” a honeyed dedication to his daughter, and “You Have Stolen My Heart” (a love letter to his wife) warm the senses from the world’s numbing cold. Most known as frontman of The Gaslight Anthem, Fallon discards the thumb-biting volatility for raw, skin-deep vulnerability, and it is unexpectedly calming.
With “Hard Feelings,” he agonizes over heartache and if he’ll ever allow “someone in again,” even though his doting new lover calls him “baby like an old romantic.” Percussion shoves him along, but his earthly form feels too drained and shell-like to move. “It’s hard when you hurt / To let somebody wreck you again / There’s a slow song playing,” she paints. “From a baby blue Mercedes / Singing, ‘When I get to heaven, there will be no more hard feelings.’”
Eight songs are never about the past; in an ever-present state of mind, there is something even more heartfelt bubbling to the surface. “There’s nothing on this record that has to do with the past or even the future,” he explains in press materials. “It just has to do with the moments that are presented and things that I’ve learned and I’m finding in my day to day.”
Fallon speaks humbly of his work, but Local Honey, containing various other themes of home and love, is his highest achievement to-date.
Photo Credit: Kelsey Hunter Ayres