No matter how much amazing music comes out of this town this year, no matter how many albums, eps or singles are released—I know two things: 1) Huckleberry got their first, releasing their debut album Fine Highway on New Year’s Day through their bandcamp site for the world to enjoy and purchase; 2) the song “Handle Me” will finish in my favorite five songs of the year. These are truths. I’ve had the luxury of having Fine Highway playing in heavy rotation since early December of last year and this album simply ages like fine wine, better and better with every listen, as the sound just nestles down into your soul, slowly becoming a part of you. Kevin Gassman of KWSS 106.7 refers to this music as “Front Porch Music” and he’s not wrong, ironically, he said this without knowing that the back cover of the album features the band sitting on a front porch—which pretty much proves his insight is correct. This IS front porch music, the kind you can listen to over and over again and drift away into a solid sunset of roaring fire and indigo crystalline hues, sipping whiskey and smiling with ease as the world drifts by in time. This is music for just drifting away, indeed.
“Handle Me” was the first preview track I got to hear, before I ever got my hands on the album and I fell in love with this song immediately. It may actually fit into my top ten local songs of all time, now that I think about it. First of all it is as lyrically brilliant as it is musically intoxicating and for that reason it very nearly tickles my brain with joy. Secondly, the song itself combines the songwriting skill of Harry Nilsson at his peak with the execution of Gram Parsons & The Flying Burrito Brothers at their peak—anyone that knows me, knows that is pure aural ecstasy in no uncertain terms. I’ve played this song for friends on the East Coast and the UK and they instantly get the Nilsson Schmilsson era vibe and mention it before I can even prompt it—in short Huckleberry has done something pretty amazing here, and then they’ve soaked it in Arizona desert rain. There’s a wonderful drunkenness that’s conveyed in both the music, the vocal delivery—a night gone so long that dawn is upon our woeful hero and whether this is an actual event or simply wine laden reverie, thoughts thought to oneself leaned against a tree staring at a lightening sky, intoxicated smile and all or the bravery that such a night imposes to approach the door that drove one to drink in the first place, it matters little. The scenario is set and the backdrop, from the saloon style piano to the steel guitar, to the winding, wavering guitar notes, there is no imperfection I have found in this song in nearly three months of listening to it daily. It’s loose and casual in the best way possible, if you have any familiarity with The Replacements Hootenanny era, you might appreciate it even more, the exception being that Huckleberry is far more accomplished musically than they were at that stage of their career. There have been many great songs released so far this year, but so far, I have to admit this is my favorite for how often I find it on my mind and how often it makes me smile. Perfection in every single second.
The good news is that, after two months and one day since Fine Highway was released, Huckleberry will be holding a magnificent record release part at The Sail Inn this Saturday, March 2nd with a mindblowing lineup. Keep in mind this will be the second night in a row that The Sail Inn will have held preeminent album releases, with the first being on Friday for the release of Slider by decker. It is perhaps this weekend above all others in which I wish there was actually an inn at The Sail Inn, because I’m pretty sure that’s where I’m hitching my pony all weekend long. Saturday night you get Huckleberry and your admission gets you a copy of the CD or the very precious vinyl version of Fine Highway, but you will also get to see Japhy’s Descent, Sun Ghost, Sara Robinson & The Midnight Special, Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold, Banana Gun, All My Friends and Mergence!!! Top that…no, I mean seriously, try to top that, you can’t, not Saturday anyway. This is going to be an amazingly fine time and Fine Highway is worth it—simply one of the most wonderful records I am proud to add to my collection this year. You don’t have to take my word for it—just listen to “Handle Me” below and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Been drinking all alone, now I’m walking down a road, now I’m standing at your door.
Been tumbling down here hey babe, I gotta settle the score.
I been trying so hard, give up, loosen up, letting down your guard.
Twist the handle open up with a handle and a twist and a handle on my glass, been hanging around here hey babe, won’t you give me a chance?
Why don’t you and me sit back by the tree and we plant a seed.
Sun is slowing creeping up, and I’ve got an empty cup, and your dress is on the floor.
Been fooling around hey babe won’t you give me some more.
Darling don’t you leave, come back pretty momma baby don’t tease me.