When it comes to music, I generally tend to connect with songs first through their melody and arrangement, then sometimes later with their lyrics. But that was not the case when I first listened to songs from the musician who goes by the artistic name the hOnest man. His lyrics immediately grabbed me in a way I hadn’t felt since listening to the searing lyrics of Kendrick Lamar. I was struck by his honest, powerful words sung to simple melodies – played mostly by really fine acoustic guitar and a bit of percussion – and quickly felt certain that his artistic name was not some bullshit, but totally genuine. I could sit and have a beer with this guy!
Born Doug Rose, the hOnest man hails from rural North Carolina and, like most singer/songwriters, expresses himself through the poetry of his song lyrics – wearing his heart on his guitar, so to speak. His music is a melding of rock, folk and Country, with a style reminiscent of The Band. In his Twitter bio, he writes “Haven’t got a clue what’s really going on anymore. I write songs with the intent of provoking thoughts and feelings.” And does he ever! Some songs, like the relevant and timely “Bully Pulpit” and “Just Desserts,” address head-on the state of things in America today. His raspy vocals make the songs all the more powerful.
One of my favorites is “Bully Pulpit,” a poke in the eye to the charlatans and frauds who prey on the public’s fears and create division for their own gain. “Now we got blues to the left, and reds to the right, throw a rich monkey in the middle and you watch them fight. Oh no, we better run just as fast we can. We got bullies in the pulpit and they don’t understand. How can we still call this the American Way? Seems like our old way of living has seen it’s dyin’ day.”
“S.O.S.” is more philosophical, accompanied by beautiful guitar. “Trapped in the desert plagued by shifting sands. Never knowing just where we’ve been. We watch the flags in search of helping hands. We’re finding far more foes than friends. Behind the shadows there are monsters. Now one of them might just be you.”
He shows his funnier side on another of my favorites, the Country-tinged “Curb.” “Well I tried to take the last train out of Clarksville, but they tore up the tracks. Walkin’ 15 South with a guitar on my back. Baby, open up the front door, my key don’t seem to fit! Now I’ve been walking for ten hours, please don’t give me no shit. She said, ‘I’ll give you every single bit I believe that you deserve! You ain’t been home in three damn weeks, and all your shit’s out on the curb!'”
The hOnest man also has a tender, romantic side, poignantly expressed in the lovely “Stay With Me.”