'Local honey' Stokley plays music from the past
Linda Jean Stokley grew up in Pinckard, but while many of her classmates were listening to pop, rock or rap, she was developing a taste for what she calls “old-time” music. Today, the 25-year-old is one half of “The Local Honeys,” along with Montana Hobbs, whom she met at Morehead State University (MSU) in the school’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music program. She arrived at MSU planning to study jazz bass guitar. Then she witnessed a teacher play a different four-stringed instrument: Jesse Ray Wells, the program’s assistant director, a top-notch musician himself, whom Stokley said became her mentor. “I heard him play the fiddle and I immediately asked him if he could show me how to do that,” Stokley said. By her third year there, most of her fellow female students were studying Bluegrass music, but Stokley was focusing on old-time music from Kentucky and other regions. “I was really interested in digging up old tunes and finding fiddlers and banjo players and songsters that were still alive, or deceased, and learning their tunes and finding all the unique tunes to different counties and things like that,” she said. “Bluegrass isn’t really my focus, and never really has been. I’ve always been like an old-time player.” In 2012, she began playing professionally with Hobbs, a Lee County native who Stokley said plays several styles of banjo. “We kind of learned to play this music together and we also were interested in writing music, so we did, and we’ve just been kind of thick as thieves ever since,” Stokley said. Both sing – though the path they chart may not be what their audience expects. “We sing what we want to hear and what we like, so we don’t necessarily stay within the bounds of true harmony all the time,” she said. A loss of harmony at home marked the start of Stokley’s journey through the world of music. After her father passed away while she was in third grade, Stokley said, she began exhibiting behavior that so worried her mother that she was given a set of drums and two or three lessons a week. She pounded away the worst of her anger and sadness, then began playing other instruments. Wells said when Stokley arrived at MSU, she was already an accomplished guitarist and bass guitarist. “Her natural musicality enabled her to be able to pick up almost any instrument and instantly be familiar with the sounds that instrument creates. And of course her background studying jazz and even classical music in our Western Music program here … really enabled her to be up for any challenge musically,” Wells said. By the time she’d graduated with a bachelor’s degree in traditional music, Wells had become a fine fiddle and banjo player, and he was honored to play mandolin and guitar on The Local Honeys’ debut album, Little Girls Actin’ Like Men. “Like all people, (she’s) always been a bit self-conscious about her voice and the style of music that she’s performing, and it’s just been really exciting to see her become a real artist,” he said. Stokley said she enjoys playing other sorts of music, like honky-tonk, freelance, jazz and rock, but The Local Honeys concentrate on what they learned at MSU. “There’s something about old-time music that’s very individualistic and very artistic. And when you start to play old-time fiddle music and things like that, it just kind of captivates you, because I’ve always been a big fan of history,” she said. “People will play the same tunes, but everybody plays it differently. And why they play it differently – a lot of it has to do with their region. The tunes from certain parts of Kentucky reflect the region.” Tunes from the Piedmont area, she said, tend to be “kind of lazy,” while songs that originated in Eastern Kentucky reflect the mountains there: “jagged and high.” “There’s something about that. Kentucky music really captivates me, but I’m interested in playing all styles of music.” The Local Honeys stay busy, touring regularly throughout the southeast, primarily in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. They played for the governor general in Jamaica and performed in Ireland and Canada. (Stokley also teaches at Capital Day School in Frankfort and Lexington’s Central Music Academy.) “And we hope to be getting across the pond pretty soon, maybe next year,” Stokley said of a trip to England. Stokley said their tour list showing a gig in Alexandria, Egypt, is a mistake her website hasn’t allowed her to fix – the show was actually in Alexandria, Ky. “It (the website program) just wanted us to play in Egypt real bad; I don’t know why. I wish we had, that would have been fun,” she said with a laugh. Regardless of whether they ever perform near pyramids, The Local Honeys will keep playing music they learned to love that is rarely heard on today’s corporate-owned radio stations. “We’d like to get in and make another record, maybe over this winter. Sometime, December, February, we’d love to do that,” Stokley said. “There’s something about getting older and getting acquainted with the home music of the mountains that really kind of calls to me.” The Local Honeys’ next show will be performed Sunday at the Kentucky Native Café in Lexington. Their website is thelocalhoneys.com.