‘Rough Beast Blues’

LAKEWOOD – Area residents gathered at Yesterday’s in Lakewood on Friday for a post-Christmas bash featuring progressive folk duo Honey Spine.

Honey Spine, which is comprised of Brian Chieco on banjo, banjo-ukulele and vocals and Tim Martin on guitar and vocals, performed a mix of original tunes from their debut album, “Rough Beast” as well as a few covers by artists such as Tom Waits. The duo also recently appeared on “Rolling Hills Radio,” and invited the cellist who played with them during the recording, Joe Lampard, to perform with them at Yesterday’s.

According to Tammy Magnuson, owner of Yesterday’s, she tries to bring in Honey Spine at least once a month.

“They’re good, and they have a unique sound that nobody else has – my favorite part is their harmonies,” Magnuson said. “Anyone who appreciates music or instrumentals should come and check them out.”

“We’re really comfortable at Yesterday’s, and we’ve really gotten to know Tammy,” Martin added. “It seems like every time we come here 2-3 new people show up who say they heard about us and wanted to see us play – that’s always nice to hear.”


Ken Hardley, host of “Rolling Hills Radio,” recently called the duo “Progressive Folk,” and if there has to be a genre to define them, that might be it. But, “Rough Beast Blues” is a really good representation of what they have to offer, said Chieco.

“We get pinned a lot of times as bluegrass, folk or old timey, but I don’t think we’re any of those things in particular – ‘Rough Beast Blues’ really says that,” Chieco said. “The chords are dissonant, complicated and between harmonies there is a lot more going on – I think it shows a darker side, or the honey half of Honey Spine.”

Both Chieco and Martin immensely enjoyed the opportunity to appear on “Rolling Hills Radio.” The episode can be found by visiting www.wrfalp.com/show/rolling-hills-radio.


Honey Spine’s debut album, “Rough Beast,” serves more as a marketing platform for the duo than a money-maker. It illustrates the sound, as well as the lifestyle of Honey Spine, and for a rough draft – it’s quite good.

The album’s title track, “Rough Beast Blues,” is a shout-out to William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,” although the song itself isn’t related.

“It’s more of a lifestyle for us,” Chieco said. “Everybody says, ‘The Rough Beast just walked in,’ and it’s true – we lead very interesting lives.”

“I think it does too – lyrically,” Martin added. “It’s a good place to start because it was an early tune that we wrote a year or two ago, and I haven’t lost the meaning the song as far as what it implies for my life.”

Akin to the true spirit of musical interpretation, “Siren’s Song” was inspired by a story Martin’s father imparted upon the duo while they practiced in his living room.

“We were singing this tune, and we didn’t really have any specific lyrics for it yet, but then my father piped up from the kitchen and said it reminded him of a story he was told when he was a sunken shipwreck diver on Lake Erie,” Martin said. “Apparently his friend was on a rescue mission in the middle of winter, and no one was equipped for the extreme weather so some of them came back with nerve damage. That’s how we came about writing ‘Siren’s Song.'”

“It says, ‘Had I known it’d be cold as hell out there I’d think twice before I go,'” Chieco added.

Several tunes from “Rough Beast” also appeared on Honey Spine’s EP, which can be streamed in its entirety at honeyspine.bandcamp.com.


It’s difficult to predict what lies ahead for the duo, but there are a few certainties in the near future: with the new year comes a new tour and a permanent addition of a bassist.

The idea of a life on the road is incredibly appealing to both Chieco and Martin, and they can’t wait to begin touring come February. For Chieco, there was a moment a few weeks ago while in North Carolina that strongly reaffirmed his desire to spread Honey Spine’s music.

“We met this guy, Paul Buchman, who saw us play at Oskar Blues Brewing Company, and he said he had something he wanted to show me,” Chieco said. “He asked if we could meet the next day at his friends place, so we went over there and he ended up giving me this vintage 1920s beautiful banjo-ukulele. He said, ‘I’ve never see a person that’s even known what a banjo-ukulele was, let alone somebody that plays the hell out of – so I’d like you to be the caretaker of this for a while.'”

SUNY Fredonia student Ingo Hutzenlaub, who will soon return from a year in Nashville, will join Honey Spine as its bassist for the upcoming tour. Chieco himself studied music business at SUNY Fredonia, while Martin studied the humanities at Jamestown Community College.

The duo are set to appear tonight at 9 p.m. at Snuffy’s in Warren, Pa., Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m., Peek ‘n’ Peak in Findley Lake on Friday, Jan. 10, at 9 p.m. and the Herman Kent Post 777 American Legion in Celoron on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 8:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.honeyspine.com or search for “Honey Spine” on Facebook or YouTube.