When married singer-songwriters Troy Brooks and Kassie Jordan formed country duo Blue Honey in 2015, they committed to pursing a dream in addition to sharing their lives. The title of the Nashville-based couple’s debut EP – simply called 1 – aptly captures that union. While, yes, 1 is their first recording together (following a pair of solo albums, Brooks’ All I Need and Jordan’s Timing), the title also symbolizes how the duo melds voices, ideas, and talents.
Not surprisingly, love (or the lack thereof) emerges as the cornerstone of the songs on the EP. However, the couple’s exploration of love’s alternately heartening and heartbreaking tendencies is not confined to romantic affection; it extends to friends and family, those people whose influences are keenly felt throughout the character-defining moments in life. 1 celebrates not only major milestones, but quieter moments of reflection with heart and warmth.
While 1 does not fall into the category of traditional country, it is rooted in the foundation of storytelling on which the genre is built. Blue Honey’s compositions provide snapshots of characters dealing with a wide range of emotions, but Brooks’ and Jordan’s versatility as vocalists allow them to credibly assume these personas. Both are more than capable of handling lead vocals, yet also comfortable enough to take a step back and contribute harmonies that lend additional depth to the songs. Neither Brooks nor Jordan (who also produced the EP together) overwhelm the other; rather, it’s the combination of their distinct voices that lends power to this project.
Album opener “Wherever You Are Tonight (Downtown Dancin’)”, penned by Jordan and Cale Dodds, emerges as the most radio-friendly tune on the EP. The song focuses on the mutual longing of two still-smarting exes, alternating between viewpoints to let the audience know that the former pair’s feelings of yearning are reciprocated. Although both are having trouble moving on, expressed well wishes for their former partner (“I hope you’re better than I am right now”) reveal a welcome level of maturity in the midst of the pain. Even though it’s the most likely composition on 1 to prompt sing-alongs, this earworm avoids the pitfall of prolonged and dull loudness that plagues some current hits. Instead, the instrumentation of “Wherever You Are Tonight” naturally rises and falls, mirroring the way its narrators take tentative first steps forward and featuring a brief but beautiful organ solo.
Some of the EP’s softer moments are its most appealing. Gentle mid-tempo “I Am the Rain” embraces the way a couple’s differences strengthen their bond. The understated number’s imagery highlights how the protagonists’ contrasts lead to a fulfilling relationship. Brooks’ heart-on-his- sleeve delivery emphasizes the tenderness of the lyrics, yet the song never descends into schmaltz. Jordan matches that level of vulnerability in the quietly wrenching “Whiskey Promise.” Acknowledging that good intentions can disintegrate beneath the harsh light of reality (“What you say may be enough/If I can keep the sun from coming up”), Jordan hauntingly voices the narrator’s wariness and hope.
Irish-tinged album closer “Cheers” features playful back-and-forth between Brooks and Jordan, ending 1 on a light-hearted note. Both a biting kiss-off to detractors and grateful acknowledgment of supporters, it should leave the audience raising a glass.
Although 1 offers only a small glimpse into Blue Honey’s sound, it proves the wisdom of their decision to join forces professionally. On their debut, the duo showcases the kind of slice-of-life storytelling that cuts across the societal lines that divide people, instead focusing on the shared emotions, values, and dreams that make their listeners feel like one.