Track 21 – “Me Oh My” by The Honeycutters
The first time I heard Amanda Anne Platt’s voice was on a tiny outdoor stage in Cashiers, North Carolina, with an audience of maybe four or five people sprawled in the grass around her. The Honeycutters had come up the mountain from Asheville that Friday as part of a weekly “Groovin’ on the Green” concert series. I was working for the Crossroads Chronicle, a small rag that never made it anywhere off the mountain. The publisher told me to go snap a few quick pictures of the concert and come right back. I didn’t return to the office.
If I’d been asked, I might’ve said I was held hostage, and truthfully I kind of was. Platt sang and her voice sank its claws into me and I didn’t move. One song bled into the next and I sat there until she was finished. I would’ve sat there for days if she’d kept singing. When the show was over, I pulled out what little money was in my wallet and shoved those crumpled bills in a jar by the stage for the only album the Honeycutters had at the time, a record called Irene. I played that record on a loop for months. I’ve bought every album they’ve recorded since.
Close to ten years later, I can still remember the song she was singing that first time I heard her, a nearly seven-minute tune called “Boneyard” with some of the most beautiful mandolin runs I’d ever heard. The song is a story of hard goodbyes and our inability to say them, the chorus a memory of a night spent in a graveyard. It was the final line of that chorus that grabbed me by the neck. Describing the graves of soldiers, she sang that they were “dead and buried a long time ago / with all their mamas’ teardrops and I-told-you-sos.”
I-told-you-sos. It is such a beautiful, beautiful turn of phrase.
I think it’s that precision that separates the poet from the novelist. If the poem and the novel are to carry the same weight, the poet must accomplish in a shot glass what the novelist carries in gallon jugs. It is a matter of economy. The best are somehow able to break a man’s heart with a single line, and this is where Platt has always shone.
The Honeycutters released their third studio album, Me Oh My, in 2015, but I first heard the title track in 2012, in a video recording of the band crammed inside a van. With her red hair shoved under a captain’s hat, Platt sang the opening lines softly into a gold-plated microphone and absolutely shredded me into pieces.
I had a baby, but the good Lord took her.
She was an angel, but her wings were crooked.
I guess he figured he could love her better than me.
They were the type of lines that make a writer stop and think, “Goddamn, I wish I’d written that.” Those three simple lines are one of the most decisive moments in a person’s life distilled down to thirty words. I have long held the belief that art must accomplish one of two things: it must elicit some sort of emotional response, or it must illuminate some aspect of the human condition. The greatest works of art accomplish both simultaneously, seamlessly, and such is the case with this song.
At its heart, “Me Oh My,” like much of Platt’s music, is a song about the expectations placed on women and what it means to not meet those expectations. “Some girls marry and some girls wait / Some girls worry that it’s too late / Some do better without that ball and chain.” It is a hard look at the cookie-cutter nature of gender roles and how seldom anyone fits them.
With fearless vulnerability and unrelenting honesty, Platt’s songwriting is sopping wet with humanity and wrung from a voice equal parts Lucinda and Emmylou. The Honeycutters are quite simply as fine a band as has come from my home state of North Carolina in my lifetime.