The Sourwood Honey Tribute crew
Come Saturday in Lexington, the town’s big new venue will play host to some essential sounds from its musical past.
The Icehouse Amphitheater will host original Sourwood Honey members Herbie Jeffcoat, Bob Hylton and Shane Conner as they play a tribute show featuring the popular ’90s-era Lexington band’s music, with Brian Conner and Sean Bing from Villanova helping to fill in the remaining spots in the lineup. Sourwood Honey singer/guitarist Chris Conner, Brian’s older brother, died of lung cancer in 2007, while singer/guitarist Ryan Goforth is not participating in this show.
The first time guitarist Herbie Jeffcoat thought they could be onto something back then was an early out-of-town gig in Greenwood, South Carolina.
“We showed up for soundcheck at this club called The Griffin and really didn’t know what to expect, but we had a few drinks and next thing you know people started pouring into the place,” he recalls. “We packed the bar that night thanks to a bunch of friends we knew there; that’s when we realized maybe we could do something with this band.”
What they did was tour the southeast regularly for the latter half of the ’90s, playing country-infused rock ‘n’ roll that quickly got them lumped in with the jam bands of the time. But they had one thing the usual noodle-rockers didn’t — two strong songwriters and singers in Chris Conner and Goforth. Conner would go on to form the leaner, cleaner group The South, while Goforth has mostly pulled back from public performances, though he says he still writes and records as a form of ongoing musical therapy. They made an unusual pair on stage with Conner’s cool country croon and Goforth’s more collegiate appeal, but it was the musicianship of the band as a whole that kept the audiences in thrall with extended instrumental jams around the solid songwriting of tunes such as “Never Said It Was Easy,” “Follow Me Down,” and “Silver Man.”
Jeffcoat points to the latter tune as an example of the Sourwood songwriting process at the time, taking acoustic-based songs and building them into full-band rock ‘n’ roll workouts.
“I sat alone in our Lexington studio at Steve Wessinger’s house late one night and after I came out that morning with the sun coming up, we had a very different, driving arrangement that I knew was the right fit for Chris’ song.”
Brian Conner has lived with the legacy of Sourwood Honey since he was a teenager watching his older brother, and he is quick to credit them with helping to spur his own musical career.
“Sourwood’s music and band members are ultimately the reason I started playing music,” Conner says. “They had their own thing going, it was successful and they didn’t care who didn’t understand it, they just embraced and befriended the ones who did.”
It was Conner who brought the idea of a full show of Sourwood tunes to Jeffcoat.
“When I was doing more acoustic shows I would always throw some of my brother’s songs into the set and occasionally I’d be lucky to have Herbie sit in with me to rip some solos,” he recalls. “One night we had some drinks and threw around the idea of me singing those parts with a whole band; the seed was planted a while ago but it took some time to come to fruition.”
The first hurdle, both Jeffcoat and Conner knew, was to get as many original members on board as they could. Last year, the 10th anniversary of Chris Conner’s passing provided an opportunity for them to put something together for the Conner Foundation gala.
“We all eventually decided that it would be a great way to pay tribute to the band’s legacy and perform for what’s to this day still a very devoted fan base,” Conner says.
“It has been great already to see that so many people are still interested,” Jeffcoat adds. “We can’t wait to give them a great show.”
What: Sourwood Honey Tribute
Sourwood Honey Tribute
Where: Icehouse Amphitheater, 107 W Main St.
Icehouse Amphitheater, 107 W Main St.
When: Saturday, May 19, 6:30-10 p.m.
Saturday, May 19, 6:30-10 p.m.
With: Emma Kate McClain
Emma Kate McClain
Price: $12 ($10 advance; $7 kids 12 and under; $5 advance kids tickets)
$12 ($10 advance; $7 kids 12 and under; $5 advance kids tickets)
More: 803-358-7275, icehouseamphitheater.com
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