Falling In Love On The Streets Of New Orleans

19 February 2016 | 2:57 pm | Samuel J. Fell

"I respect the people who can fabricate amazing fantasies, that's a great art, but it's not ours."

As far as rock'n'roll fairytales go, it doesn't get much better than this — man with banjo meets woman with wash-tub bass as they're busking on the streets of New Orleans. They fall in love, get married, spend their wedding night at a truckstop somewhere in Louisiana, out towards the Atchafalaya Swamps. A band is born.

This is how the aptly named Truckstop Honeymoon came to be, and since then, Mike and Katie West haven't looked back. Eight records, countless hours spent chewing up countless miles of two-lane blacktop, and you've got yourselves a working class duo not afraid to go anywhere, do anything, all the while singing about what they know, life as they see it, taking their rootsy blend to all and sundry.

"Whatever our faults may be, our shortcomings, we're definitely real."

"Oh it's pretty real," laughs Mike West. "Whatever our faults may be, our shortcomings, we're definitely real. We're up to our ninth album right now, anecdotal stuff, stories, experiences shared... wholly unpretentious."

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The Wests, in 2005, fell victim like so many others in New Orleans, to Hurricane Katrina, and so they packed their young family into the van and headed west, eventually settling in Lawrence, Kansas (a musical mecca in its own right). It's from there that they've built Truckstop Honeymoon into the well regarded roots music duo it is today. And it's been built, as West alluded, on songs written from experience.

"It's just such an easy place to start," West says on how he and Katie write. "You don't have to pull stuff out of the ether, you just see what strikes you on that day and draw from what you know. It's just a very simple way to write.

"I respect the people who can fabricate amazing fantasies, that's a great art, but it's not ours," he adds with a laugh. "We tend to be inspired by things we see, things we know, people we meet, things we've experienced, you know? That's where it all comes from."

From their latest release, 2014's The Madness Of Happiness, there are a number of songs that fit such a criteria: List Of Chores, Couch Surfing With A Family Of Six, the title track — all these songs are built from experiences shared, things seen, life lived. It's part of what makes Mike and Katie West, Truckstop Honeymoon.

Of course, at first glance, topics like a list of chores may seem mundane. But as is the case with many a well turned folk song, it's how it's delivered, how it sounds and how it resonates with listeners that makes it solid. Truckstop Honeymoon are consummate entertainers, and so their simple songs come out with a subtle power and strength that makes them relatable. Put 'em to a rootsy beat, and you've got a winner.

"We both love different kinds of music, old R&B, old country, jazz, rock'n'roll, 60 years of it," West says on the duo's sound. "So when you sit down and write, you don't worry too much about styling anything, you just play what you feel is appropriate and expresses the thing you're trying to feel in a song."