“Honeycomb” – The O’s

3 stars (out of 5)

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the-os-honeycomb-cover-300dpiI can’t seem to escape from banjos at the moment; they’re everywhere, like those killer clowns but slightly less dangerous. What’s different here is that the banjo isn’t just used for the odd solo or some percussive background sounds. On the O’s fourth album “Honeycomb”, the banjo’s taking the role that a lead guitar would in a rock band; it’s right up there, front and centre. It’s even got its own set of stomp boxes; that’s a banjo with attitude and then some.

The O’s are John Pedigo and Taylor Young, and between them, they play everything on the album, although Del Amitri’s Justin Currie makes a guest vocal appearance on “Woken Up”.

So what kind of music are they making? Well, most people are hedging their bets by referring to it as ‘roots’, but, electric banjo aside, there are a lot of influences washing around in their sound. They’re playing country/roots instruments, but they have a definite rock band attitude; listening to the album’s opening song, “Fourteen Days”, hinted at The Waterboys, where Mike Scott fused elements of Celtic folk, pop and rock to create an unlikely commercial success, but this album’s so diverse that everyone’s going to have a slightly different take on it.

You could pick out some John Lennon harmonica on “Halfway Sideways”, some pedal steel on “The Reaper” and some big widescreen productions on “Burning Red” and “Shooting Star”. It’s full of great harmonies to sweeten up the sound, and a lead vocal that’s powerful with a hint of vulnerability. If you’re looking for a rock comparison, Matchbox 20 wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

If someone told you this was Americana and listed the instruments that are featured, you might expect some self-effacing acoustic songs, delicately played; you’d be in the wrong place. “Honeycomb” is full-on and in-yer-face with a warning that those acoustic instruments can go all the way up to eleven as well. It should carry a sticker, ‘Danger; banjos may bite’.

“Honeycomb” is released in the UK on Friday October 28th.