Introduction by Mark Pantsari from an article he wrote December 1, 2009:
I can't tell you exactly how many times I saw Sourwood Honey. More than a handful of shows at the old Rockafella's in Five Points in Columbia, several times while I was in college at Clemson, and a few times when I was living in Charleston. After seeing the band play at the St. Patrick's Day Festival in Five Points in 1998 (I am sorta’ guessing the date) I wrote a review of the show for a college non-fiction writing class. The teacher gave me some great feedback on it, and that more or less gave me the idea that I wanted to try to write about music. And for about seven very low-paid years of my 20s I did just that.
I love this band and I can say with no doubt that they are a very big reason my idiot friends and I are all so into music and concerts. Sourwood Honey was part of the soundtrack to my high school and college years. And they more or less gave us all a first-hand introduction to improvisational rock.
But at the heart of it all were some great songs tinged in Southern rock. The dual front men Ryan Goforth and Chris Conner were gifted songwriters and Conner's voice was amazing. Herbie Jeffcoat's guitar playing sounded like a hybrid of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, (probably a reason the Allman Brothers would become a favorite band of mine), and the rhythm section always gave this band such a vibrant pulse.
I sincerely wish I could go back in time and see this band again. Especially whenever the last time I saw them was, so I could make myself remember every note of the show.
Sadly, Chris Conner died in November 2007. My heart goes out to the family and friends he left behind, but I'll be forever thankful for the music that he left behind. I'll play both of these records at least a couple of times a year to maintain sanity, and today was one of those days.
Herbie Jeffcoat still gigs around Columbia a ton and fronts the Herbie Jeffcoat Project. Les Hall toured with Howie Day and did a stint with Phish's Trey Anastasio. I actually did a story on him for jambands.com back in 2005, (http://www.jambands.com/features/2005/06/07/the-many-moves-of-les-hall-from-howie-day-to-trey), though I haven't kept up with what he's been up to lately. And I have no idea what the rest of the guys in the band are up to. But if it's any consolation to any of the band members from Sourwood Honey, thank you all for being in one of my favorite bands of all time.
"Sometimes the honey sounds so sweet."
Bio (Provided by Sherry Kyanko):
At age 17 Chris Conner formed his first band "Astronaut 888". Band members were Chris, Ryan Goforth, and Ricky Reddick. Songwriting came easy for Chris, and as one of his songs said, "I'm always hearing music in my head". Using his original music, Chris formed the band Sourwood Honey In 1989. He added Ryan Goforth on harmony vocals and guitar, Shane Conner on drums and percussions, and Bob Hylton on bass guitar. Sourwood Honey’s first performance was at the Village Idiot in Five Points. There was an “open microphone night” competition, where they played and won receiving free food and an open bar tab until closing time. By the early 90's, Sourwood Honey would fill the club “Annie's” on Rosewood Drive to capacity where most of Lexington emptied out and into Annie's.
In 1994 Sourwood Honey was joined by Cale Hernandez on drums, and Doug Reynolds on bass guitar. By this time Chris' voice possessed much of the tone and timbre that would render it instantly recognizable throughout his career. After an early cassette release, the line-up grew into a full band for the 1995 self-titled CD release. Additional new members Les Hall on keyboards and Jessie "Herbie" Jeffcoat on lead guitar filled out the band's sound. Chris' songs like “All My Relations” had a radio-friendly '70's country rock vibe that no amount of improvisatory jamming could disguise. By 1998 Sourwood Honey was successful on stages across the Carolinas and all over the southeast. Their final CD release “Oxydendrum Arboreum” reflected the confident musicianship of the entire band, and it included several of Chris' best songs like, "Follow Me Down" and "Blues For You".
Chris Conner – Songwriter, Vocals, Guitar
Ryan Goforth – Vocals, Guitar
Jessie (Herbie) Jeffcoat – Guitar
Les Hall - Keyboards
Bob Hylton - Bass
Cale Hernandez – Drums