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Appalachian Duo The Local Honeys Address Coal Mining in New Double Single

Zachary Martin

Kentucky musicians Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs are Appalachian-bred artists with a message. With Stokley on guitar and fiddle, and Hobbs on the banjo, their sound calls directly back to their roots and resonates in the here and now. They shine a light on the ongoing struggles of coal mining in their newest release, two singles called “Dying To Make A Living” and “Octavia Triangle,” out now on La Honda Records. I reached out to The Local Honeys to discuss their origins, the recording of the new singles, and what's in store for the duo. Read their statements, hear the new singles, and watch a special behind-the-scenes video below.

The beginning of The Local Honeys:
" We met at Morehead State University in the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music; a specialized program where bluegrass and old time misfits could convene and study traditional techniques and practices with modern advances. We practically camped out in the archives, bringing each other late night Taco Bell while we watched Cousin Emmy videos or Keith Whitley’s unreleased used car dealership commercials in Sandy Hook, KY. In 2015, we were honored to graduate together from MSU with Bachelor’s of Arts in Traditional Music; becoming the first women in the school’s history to earn the degree. We carry that with us in all of our performances. We learned this traditional art form together and we are still practicing and crafting and creating our own new art form that is accessible and relatable." -Montana Hobbs
On recording "Dying to Make a Living":
" In October of 2019, we went to Huntington, WV to record at The Loft with our friend and engineer, Max Nolte. We recorded Dying to Make A Living, a song that was written maybe just twenty years prior but is still more relevant than ever. Earlier that year, five men from the Cloverlick No.3 deep mine in Cumberland (Harlan Co., KY) stalled a coal car carrying a million dollars worth of coal from being hauled out of the mountains. After the Blackjewel mining company went belly up and failed to inform their employees they left an entire workforce hanging in the balance. We recorded this song for the men and women who camped out along the train tracks in protest and fought for not only their wages but for all out-of-work miners employed by Blackjewel across four states. It's grit like that that makes us proud to be Kentuckians." -Linda Jean Stokley " We're tradition bearers. We take our jobs seriously. We find it necessary to dedicate ourselves to our craft and the resurrection of old music that is pertinent to the times we are living in and the creation of new music that speaks to our surroundings and shared experiences. That's why "Dying To Make A Living" is such a gut wrenching song. Everyone around here values hard work and takes pride in the struggle to succeed. "Dying" is a painfully descriptive song about industry and exploitation of workers. It is a brilliant song written by WV Hill out of Southwest Virginia and the band Foddershock. It's an anthem for the working class and rings true today just as loudly as it ever has." -Montana Hobbs
On recording "Octavia Triangle":
"'Octavia Triangle' is a beautiful and tragic story of love and coal. It was written by Frona McCown. We never met Mrs. McCown, but we were very fortunate to be close to her son, Jimmy. Jimmy taught me this song in 2019 at Cowan Creek Mountain Music School in Whitesburg, KY under the big oak trees. He was a staple at CCMMS and had been a faculty member since the school’s inception. He was a shining light in the old time music community and one of Eastern Kentucky’s finest musicians. He was the kindest and biggest supporter of the younger generation, always giving them time and space and a voice. Unfortunately, he passed away tragically and unexpectedly in October 2020, nearly one year after we recorded his mother’s song with him at 'The Loft' in Huntington, WV. It’s a true blessing to learn from your heroes, and we were blessed to be able to love this man and make music and learn from him. He’s featured on 'Octavia Triangle' playing his fabulous 6-string banjo in his spectacular style." -Montana Hobbs
The Local Honeys in 2021:
" We’ve got a lot of hopes for 2021. Not too many plans, 2020 learned us good. Our biggest and most important plan is to record our next album. 2020 was not completely dim and miserable. It brought us our friends at La Honda Records. We signed with them with the sole intent to make our next record our best yet and we are making that happen with La Honda. They’ve given us a lot of freedom, professional advice and creative pushes to get a new, matured sound and identity for The Local Honeys. We’ve grown a lot, even in the stagnant pond of 2020. We’re looking forward to more writing, recording, learning, sharing and teaching. All the things that make music so personal and important to us." -Montana Hobbs

Otis is the late morning host on WFPK. Email Otis at ojunior@lpm.org