(and The Trailer Park Honeys)
"Lipstick and Beer," the new CD from Lisa Miller and the Trailer Park Honeys, features the theme of beer, heartbreak, beer, lipstick, beer, good times, beer - you get the picture.
"My style of music? Well, we call it honky-tonk," Lisa replied. "But it's not strictly country, it's not strictly country-swing, it's not strictly rockabilly, but it rocks pretty hard. It's the kind of music that makes you want to drink and dance and drink and cry."
Based in Portland, Oregon, Lisa Miller and the Trailer Park Honeys are a progressive honky-tonk band in an area not particularly noted for its wealth of such talent.
"You can say it's the kind of music that will get you in trouble," she said as we both laughed. "Yeah, that's what it is. Some people say it's some pretty hard-drinking music in some ways, hard-dancing, foot-stomping music. We put on a show - that's for sure - and as the night progresses, the band gets louder and we kinda let it all fly."
Lisa said the concept for her band emerged from the fact that all their production was done on a shoestring budget (and no, she doesn't live in a trailer but she'd like to!).
"Everything was done with cans and bottle money and any money we could scrounge up from any other little side projects we were doing to get things going and get ourselves recorded," she explained. "That's how we all became the Trailer Park Honeys.
"I had written a song for my first album called "Trailer Park Honey" and it was about doing things, following your dreams in spite of the fact you might not have all the money or whatever it would take to actually fulfill that dream right away," she continued. "That didn't mean that you didn't stop pursuing it. The whole band had that attitude, that we can do this, we don't know how, but we'll do it. It just went real good with the name and the song has become the end of the night theme song and everybody around town here knows the words and sings along."
Lisa's start in music began as a child. Although her father wasn't musically inclined, he possessed an extensive record collection. Her mother was a musician and her brother started playing guitar when he was 10. "By the time he was 12, I was starting to learn to play guitar. He wanted me to play rhythm guitar so he could learn how to play lead guitar, so I had to become a good rhythm guitar player pretty darn fast," she said with a laugh.
While her brother preferred the sounds of Jimmy Hendrix and Carlos Santana, Lisa preferred the folk and country vein. At one point, Lisa's family was living in the Bay area and she recalled she was exposed to "all kinds of incredible music."
When her family moved back to Oregon, she enrolled in college and was a music and theater major. She also started a punk rock band with her little brother, but then her drummer moved to Seattle and started his own band and her brother started one as well. Unfortunately, about this time Lisa was involved in a car accident and was told she would be unable to play guitar again.
"I was told my arm would just never do that again," she recounted, "But I worked and worked and worked at it and started playing again. I had kids somewhere in the middle of there too, but now they're teenagers, so they're ready for me to go away and go play music."
"Lipstick and Beer," the group's second effort, features six original numbers on the 11 track CD. She said the first CD, "Trailer Park Honey and Other Love Songs," was all original songs and she was experimenting with different musicians at that period of time. The line-up of the Honeys changes according to the direction she's heading.
"What I was able to do with 'Lipstick and Beer' was to gather the cream of the crop in my opinion, pull them into the studio and do some of my own original stuff and then some songs I just really love.
"You're driven for different reasons. Maria Muldaur had done 'I'm a Woman' so I had to do that and then Webb Pierce's song 'Kissing My Pillow.' When you hear it, it's one of the saddest songs I know and really a challenge to sing. I had a good time choosing some songs that I felt could cover my perspective and they would be challenging to sing and musically interesting."
With Lisa's strong, sturdy voice at the helm, the CD opens with "Just a Step Ahead," a catchy honky-tonk tune, while "Crying for My Baby" has more of a swing feel, highlighting the piano work of Hank Rasco. Lisa has the knack of having other instruments (horn, piano, pedal steel, etc.) share the same prominence as the guitar and she has interesting tales to tell about the origins of some of her numbers.
"There's a song about Elvis ('He's Alive!)," she began. "I had these next door neighbors who had an Elvis shrine in their back room. They just sort of worshipped Elvis. They sold guns out of their trunk. I was fascinated by them, a little bit scared of them, but really enjoyed watching the activity over at their house. That inspired me to write this song about them believing that Elvis was talking to them."
"Puppy Possessed," a tune that deals with a woman who thinks her dog is communicating with her, is guaranteed to get you dancing with the fiddle work of Marilee Horde.
"I've been influenced by all the music I've been listening to over the last 10 years which is really concentrated on old, old country music and pulling from a lot of the women songwriters. That really inspired me to write some of the more country stuff that's on there, both musically and lyrically."
In all, Lisa and the Trailer Park Honeys are pleased the way the album turned out.
"I think it has more of a sense of all-around sound throughout the CD, all the songs are linked," she commented. "They all go together very nicely. It's one solid record. In the first one I was trying a lot of different things, sounds, influences and all my interests in one album And no one could really label what the music was and that was okay with me, but it was hard to market.
"This one has more of a sense of direction to it," Lisa added. We're playing honky-tonk music. It sounds like honky-tonk music. It sounds live, even though it isn't.
Lisa and the band recorded in a very old studio that used all old tube amplifiers and vintage equipment and instruments.
"It just has a nice old-timey feel to it. It's very professional sounding. The recording itself is a higher quality I think, and the band sounds like a band, not like people I hired to have come in. We sound like a solid band and I really wanted people to be able to tell that this time," Lisa concluded.
Meant for late-night, get-down bars and serious public drinking, with Lisa Miller and the Trailer Park Honeys the pain you feel in the morning is worth the fun you had the night before.
Article written by: Tina
Tina Alvarez received her degree in Journalism form the University of Arizona. She has been covering the music scene for various publications over 20 years. She resides in Tucson with her husband, John, and their three cats.
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