Truckstop Honeymoon
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Truckstop Honeymoon

Lawrence, Kansas, United States | INDIE

Lawrence, Kansas, United States | INDIE
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"Who You Know- Mike West and Katie Euliss"

They got hitched one afternoon, played a gig in Lafayette and were so dog-weary on the drive home to New Orleans they crashed for the night at the Tiger Truck Stop deep in the heart of Cajun country.

The local tourist attraction at the lay-by was a collection of sad, caged tigers way more strung out than their newlywed guests. As wedding nights go, it was memorable. Somewhere during that shambolic sleepover they conceived a name for their band, Truckstop Honeymoon.

They had met in 2002 when Mike West had walked into a Katie Euliss gig at the Spotted Cat in New Orleans. The gal he came to call Miss Katie took one look at him and said to herself : "I'm gonna know that guy."

The son of Morris West, one of Australia's greatest novelists, had been born in Australia and raised in England where he became a musician. Sixteen years ago, with dance music invading the clubs and his indie band falling apart, Mike crossed the Atlantic. Near busted flat in Nashville, he spent his last few bucks on a Greyhound ticket to New Orleans. There he made rent as a banjo-slinging grifter and seller of CDs that he claimed were a curative for hangovers and small-mindedness.

He started guesting on mandolin at some of Miss Katie's shows. She was from North Carolina via Florida and had turned up in Louisiana in her late teens to learn whore-house piano and bucket bass in the streets of the French Quarter.

West: "She was smart, quick, funny, shrewd, direct like nobody else I'd spoken to in the South."

In 2005 they were on the road when Hurricane Katrina blew out of the Gulf of Mexico. The levee broke eight blocks from their house and wiped out the entire neighbourhood.

"Our studio got washed away with all the instruments we hadn't taken on tour," says Mike. "Stuff is just stuff, but losing an entire community was something else."

Truckstop Honeymoon had been accustomed to the gypsy existence, but Katrina literally washed Mike, Miss Katie and their two kids out of the city they had come to love and call home. For months they lived out of the van and kept the kids fed and amused at roadside convenience stores.

Eventually they found home in a flood-free state famous for a fictional tornado. The banjo wizard from Oz, Miss Katie and kids set up house in the township of Lawrence, Kansas. A flashpoint for the American Civil War, Lawrence later became known for beat writers and artists like William S. Burroughs and as a haven for musicians of all stripes.

"There is no other place like New Orleans, but we had to make a new life," says West. "Kansas is ranked 50th for tourism in the States which means nobody goes there, so it's really very cool."

Lawrence may be where they keep the family photo album but the road is still every bit their home, and to that end they have criss-crossed the planet to bring what one reviewer described as their "barnstorming punk rock take on vaudeville banjo and bluegrass music" to fans from Norway to Australia. It's all originals with themes that take in tales of cheating spouses, bad attitudes, short-change romances, endless asphalt and dodgy diners, all told with a "psychobilly" sense of playfulness, ringing banjo and a bass as certain as a highway centreline.

On the way, West has lost his English punk-indie voice to a Southern rumble that might have crept off an east Texas porch or out of a Louisiana swamp. It's been a journey that started way back in England when he caught legendary Texan singer-songwriter Guy Clark in concert: "The first time I had seen a middle-aged man with an acoustic guitar rocking the house."

Now, 44, Mike has found that groove up there next to his 31-year-old muse.

As a guy who missed a college education and has been writing songs since he was 13, the banjo man is still adhering to his dad's advice: "Make a living from your craft."

The brood has grown since to include three kids. Sadie, 7, Vega, 4, and Julian, 9 months, travel with the folks.

"If it's a daytime show, the kids are backstage," says Katie. "At night, they're with a babysitter. So many musicians have kids that you develop a network of families who take care of each other. For us, it's not a job, it's a life. We have a mutual vision. We love travelling and playing for people. You have to savour where you're at. It's better than chasing that empty goblet at the end of the rainbow." Neil Jameson - The Herald, Newcastle Australia


"No Honeymoon for Musical Duo"

Like a dirty joke or a classic National Lampoon magazine, a little bawdy humor is always welcome, especially in music.

It’s far more appealing than any songs by ballooned pop stars trying to exploit some career indulging message. It’s honest, open and interesting, using humor and odd-ball imagery in song to lure listeners into a world of weird old America.

It’s the kind of music Truckstop Honeymoon’s done on six records and in countless shows. The husband-and-wife duo of guitarist, banjo and mandolin player Mike West and bassist/banjoist Katie Euliss play a cross between insurgent country-bluegrass and hi-octane rockabilly with hints of New Orleans vaudevillian jazz.

They sing of dive bars and cheap speed, roadside eateries and sordid yet honest love affairs.

Their aggressive take on American music is honest and real and they’ll play Wednesday at Ska Brewing Co. for Durango Acoustic Music’s members appreciation concert.

If their music is real, it’s nothing compared to the couple’s real-life story. They met and began playing music together in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Truckstop Honeymoon was on tour, unable to get back to The Big Easy to save their home and recording studio in the lower ninth ward.

The outcome was similar for all in that neighborhood; they lost it all. So they stayed on tour, and at the urging of the late Kirk Rundstrom of Split Lip Rayfield, they settled in Kansas. Split Lip and Rundstrom have both recorded music using West’s home-based studio.

Kansas fit for them.

“It’s been an area of the country where people have been good to us, we have a good following here. It’s somewhere we could make a go at it as musicians,” said West last week from his home in Lawrence.

“Kansas was somewhere we could afford to live, there’s a lot of music here, and people love and support the music, and it’s worked out really well.”

Like Split Lip Rayfield, Truckstop Honeymoon often gets lumped into an acoustic punk-grass realm, though their music, now more than ever, reflects their love of New Orleans. The live shows are stripped down and simple like a two-piece should be, but their studio releases are loaded with instrumentation like horns and keyboards.

“We’re influenced by old country, but our other love is old jazz and R & B; New Orleans music,” West said.

“Since we’ve moved to Kansas we’ve met a bunch of horn players, so we’re recording more jazz-influenced things than we ever did in New Orleans.”

Humor and satire is as common in their songs as aggressive playing. Perhaps that’s something that helped him keep himself and his family (they travel with all four kids when on tour) together when they lost their home and studio in 2005. Songs like “Jesus Ain’t Done Jack” and “Homemade Haircut” are funny, autobiographical reflections of the songwriters.

“To me humor is an expression of the profounder and sadder things really. I love old comic records, humorist records because they came out of tough times. If you listen they describe those times better than something kind of morose” West said.

“Things that are raunchy and crass capture the times and the toughness; you make light of it and it describes it better. That’s stuff that I admire, humor in music; there?s something deep in it, but not to detract from it being funny.” - Durango Herald


"The Honeymoon Ain't Over"

On the banks of the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers sits the quaint university town of Lawrence, Kansas, a mid-sized city with a surprisingly rich history. It was a flashpoint of the Civil War due to bleeding anti-slavery sentiment, resulting in the 1863 Lawrence massacre. In modern times, beat writer William S. Burroughs resided there for the last 16 years of his life. Additionally, it offers all the cultural amenities normally found in a university town: coffeehouses, microbreweries, and a thriving music and arts scene. In a travel column on Febuary 25, 2005, The New York Times cited Lawrence as the most vital music scene between Denver and Chicago. It's also the home of Mike West and Katie Euliss, also known in the indie folk scene as Truckstop Honeymoon.
The husband-and-wife team form one of the most entertaining quasi-counter-culture acoustic duos in North America. He plays acoustic guitar, banjo, and mandolin; she plays an upright stringed bass. Both sing and perform original material that ranges from zany and laugh-out-loud funny to poignant and revealing. They are not beyond banging on pots and pans, either. Since 2003, the couple has released five CDs and a DVD on the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Binky/Squirrel Records. They're amazingly popular in their adopted Sunflower State -- don't be surprised if you're the only one not singing along at a gig -- and are known throughout the Midwest as well as in their former New Orleans habitat and across the Gulf Coast. Additionally, they frequently tour the United Kingdom, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.
While this may seem typical for the lives of two highly successful musicians, they're also part of a family of five, recently expanded to six. Their four children range in age from newborn to eight. ''Ever since I've met Mike, the schedule has been like record, baby, record, baby, record, baby,'' Euliss said with a laugh. ''For now, let's just do a few records. We can get pets if we need small, cuddly things in the future.''
And in their own rebellious nature, levelled against the impersonal music industry, they tour as a family, taking time to ensure lessons and violin practices get done. ''The only thing I ever ask for in a rider is a babysitter,'' West said about what goes in their contracts these days. ''We definitely put in the work to make it happen,'' Euliss explained about their unusual but rewarding lifestyle. ''We probably work more hours in a week than a whole office of employees somewhere, just because we have to be so efficient.''
West and Euliss met in New Orleans as working musicians. Neither was born there, and each took a circuitous route to land in ''the city that time forgot.'' Especially West, who was born in Australia and emigrated to England with his family at age seven. When he was 21, he moved from the suburbs of London to the northern post-industrial city of Manchester, intrigued by the landscapes of centuries-old brick fortresses, as seen in New Order Story, a documentary on the early days of post-punkers/synth poppers New Order and Factory Records. Because Manchester's economy was depressed, many opted to play music and start bands, thereby fueling a healthy arts scene. Soon West found himself the chief songwriter and guitarist in a jangly guitar pop band that became known as Man From Delmonte (MFD). Eventually, MFD developed a loyal fan base and recorded singles and EPs, but it never reached its intended stardom. Nonetheless, it remained a solid club draw and even toured England and Spain.
A couple of years after MFD fizzled out, West had an epiphany of sorts. ''I was approaching 30 and realized I still liked playing music,'' he explained. ''At the time in England, the kind of music that I was playing, 30 was far too old. Then I saw Guy Clark [from America] play. What really struck me was that he was this middle-aged dude playing this beautiful music and communicating with all this power. He didn't have a band; he had gray hair and was playing all these songs on a guitar.
This is an excerpt from the print edition of Dirty Linen #143 (September/October 2009). - Dirty Linen


"Homemade Haircut review"

TRUCKSTOP HONEYMOON
Homemade Haircut
Squirrel 1055
Mike West and Katie Euless, who together
are Truckstop Honeymoon,
put the fun back in contemporary folk music.
In a world of dour singer-songwriters,
they tackle social commentary and personal
relationships with tongue firmly in cheek
– not that they don’t also write and sing a
few serious songs. As their name suggests,
the overall sound is something like you
might find on a truckstop jukebox.
The duo spices up the CD with piano, organ,
fiddle, trombone, trumpet and some
wonderfully playful drumming. I suspect had
they been around a hundred years ago they
would have been stars of vaudeville. The
songs are clever, informed and hit their mark,
with topics ranging from the title song, which
explores the meaning of hairstyles, to fortuitous
accidents, bargain hunting and being a
124 Sing Out! • Vol. 54 #1
latch-key kid. The song “Cape Canaveral”
offers a unique take on the Challenger shuttle
disaster, while the rollicking “Childhood
Memories” reveals the damage done when
parents and children engage in drug use together,
featuring a refrain about never forgetting
“the Christmas I got mama high.” In contrast,
“Burlington Northern Santa Fe” is a
tender love song infused with the music of
passing train horns. Homemade Haircut refreshingly
lifts you up and carries you along
with the hilarious and soulful 14 original
tunes that remain humorous and involving
even after many listenings. — RWarr - Sing Out Magazine


"Mike West and Katie Euliss bring Truckstop Honeymoon back to New Orleans"

As banjoist Mike West and bassist Katie Euliss, the husband-and-wife duo who perform as Truckstop
Honeymoon, finalized their new, seventh CD, they realized they lacked a unifying title track. “Katie had written a
bunch of bleak but beautiful songs about the prairie, about feeling out of place and trying to make her peace with
it,” West said recently. “I just wanted to write 1930s Vaudeville numbers on my five-string banjo, which is
traditionally a bluegrass instrument, playing ragtime jazz chords as if I was playing a tenor banjo.”
The songs “were strangely coherent, because
they’re a different reaction to the same sort of
aching. Feeling out of place, or missing a place,
but still learning to live in and love a new
place.”
Before Hurricane Katrina, West and Euliss were
happily ensconced in the Holy Cross
neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the
Mississippi River. Their home studio, the 9th
Ward Pickin’ Parlor, serviced an array of mostly
acoustic musicians. After Katrina, the couple
and their kids settled in Lawrence, Kan., where
they remain.
As they considered their latest batch of prairie songs and “striped-shirt, Steamboat Willie, five-string banjo songs,”
Euliss pulled out a copy of banjoist and “Gentle on My Mind” composer John Hartford’s children’s book,
“Steamboat in a Cornfield,” which chronicles the 1910 stranding of an Ohio River steamboat.
Here was their unifying metaphor.
“ ‘Steamboat in a Cornfield’ — that’s kind of what we are,” West said. “Within a day, I’d written the song. It ended
up being the thing to tie the album together.”
“Steamboat in a Cornfield” is the title track of Truckstop Honeymoon’s new CD. They’ll showcase much of it while
in New Orleans to perform at d.b.a. on Thursday, Jan. 19 and at Chickie Wah Wah on Friday, Jan. 20.
Although West and Euliss tour as a banjo and upright bass duo, much of “Steamboat in a Cornfield” also contains
drums, trombone and tuba, hinting at their former hometown. As usual, most songs, alternately sung by the
enthusiastically wry West and Euliss, in her nasally twang, observe their lives and travels, often with sly humor.
“Corn Maze” captures the ambivalence of their life in the Midwest: “In the middle of nowhere, or the center of
everything/Just a matter of perspective.” Written as a finger-picking blues, “On the Prairie Now” is retrofitted with
a lazy second-line groove.
West wrote “She Wants to Be French” after Euliss returned from the duo’s first-ever tour of France smitten by the
country. She wrote the more rock ’n’ roll “Grateful Dead Show” based in part on her own unconventional
upbringing. The humorous “Your Mother Is a Sociopath” has proven especially popular with young listeners.
West and Euliss are raising four children: Euliss’ 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, as well as the
couple’s 8-, 4- and 2-year-olds. The kids accompany their parents on the road. Total airfare for their upcoming
spring tour of Australia is almost $10,000, necessitating a two-month stay Down Under to recoup expenses.
Regardless of the economy, they’ve managed to keep their cottage industry solvent. Income from touring and
selling CDs is supplemented by the small studio West operates out of their home in Lawrence. They live in one of
Lawrence’s older neighborhoods, near the Kansas River, which West describes as “almost as polluted as the
Mississippi.” They stage their own Mardi Gras parade to the town center at Carnival time.
“We’ve spent six years building connections and friendships in this town,” he said. “The first three years, like
everybody, we were depressed and out of sorts. Now, finally, we’re at the point of, ‘These are great people, it’s a
great town, and we’re really lucky.’ You just have to embrace where you’re at, and move on.”
Still, they very much feel the pull of New Orleans.
“It’s such a big emotional thing, for everybody who left and everybody who stayed,” West said. “You make your
choices, and then you build and move on. We’ve had a lucky few years. We’ve had a lot of success on our little
terms, making a living playing and recording music. The Midwest has been really good for us.
“But Katie and I feel like New Orleans totally changed who we were and made a huge impact on what we became.
So you always have that aching feeling.”
Still, he admits that “it’s hard to figure out how much of it is you missing the place, and how much is you missing
the time of life. I’m nearly 50; I was 29 when I moved to New Orleans. Katie was 18.
“Where we are right now (in Kansas), just the pragmatics of it … the kids are doing great, it’s good place for us to
tour out of, and all that.
“But you never stop missing it.” - Times Picayunne, New Orleans


"TRUCKSTOP HONEYMOON: A MUSICIAN’S LIFE AND HALF A COW"

After six years in Lawrence, Kansas, former Lower Ninth Ward duo Mike West and Katie Euliss
have expanded their family from four to six and added five albums to their discography as Truckstop
Honeymoon. There are other things to brag about as well, such as chickens and hamsters and the
daily triumph of sanity. They feel at home. The peach tree Euliss planted as a way of dealing with
their forced Katrina exile is now producing apricot-sized fruit; they bought part of a cow to get raw
milk from a local farmer; and visitors to their three-story house can witness the potty-training
progress of the couple’s youngest daughter Esther (Essie) as soon as they walk through the front
door. To get to their house, you can turn on Louisiana Street. It’s a nice block, full of leafy trees and
nice neighbors. West recalls when three men in suits came to his doorstep in late 2005, carrying a
pie: “I thought it was 1948,” he says. “I get a knock on the door at eight o’clock at night, in the middle of
winter. I’m like, ‘What have I done?’ Our neighbor Harry had baked a pie and came with the other
male neighbors to present the pie. ‘You’ve got to be shitting me. You brought a pie?’”
But the more West and Euliss make a home for themselves in Kansas, the more they find
themselves going down Louisiana Street—literally. This is the case on their new album, Steamboat
in a Cornfield, which they see as their most New Orleans-inspired album yet.
“Katrina was such a huge ordeal that it’s been interesting landing and really reflecting on the
contrasts between the places,” Euliss says. “More than just missing New Orleans, we now claim
Kansas as home.”
West elaborates: “In New Orleans, we did this folk-country thing in a town where there was only a
handful of people interested in Middle America string band music and bluegrass. Now that we live
here in the heart of it, with each record we do more and more songs that are influenced by the old
R&B songs and 1930s show tunes, jazz and vaudeville.
“When we moved to Lawrence, we really slotted in because they loved the punk-tinged bluegrass
thing and we were right there. Now we’re still right there, but we have more and more tunes that are
influenced by 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. Playing this in New Orleans didn’t make sense to us because so
many people play it, but here nobody’s doing much of it. When you say ‘jazz player’ in this town, it
means people who are only interested when there are solos coming up. [laughs] They’re modern
jazz players. Whereas in New Orleans, there are so many musicians who just love the wonderful
songs. The lyrics and melodies are great, and our horn players here seem really happy to be playing
them. I use my five-string banjo like a tenor banjo as best I can, vamping old swing changes. I’m
dealing with the relocation by playing tugboat songs; suddenly I am the little guy in the striped suit,
dancing on river boats.”
Kansas natives were quick to welcome the duo. West and Euliss’ annual Mardi Gras parade has
grown to a crowd of several hundred revelers, and so far, nobody’s bothered about a permit. The
main difference for West and Euliss is that they often end up wearing thermals under their tutus, and
they don’t run into any other parades.
“As far as diversions and distractions, there isn’t much,” Euliss says. “Mike and I have a lot of time
at night to sit around writing songs. New Orleans, you can just go there and dissolve into whatever
is going on, and whatever comes of you is fine, but you also have to sacrifice yourself to that.”
It wasn’t easy finding a new place to live for a family who wanted the life of working musicians. “It
got very narrow,” West says. “Where can we live and play music for a living? Where we can afford?
San Francisco? New York? No way. You can’t afford it. How do you go from New Orleans to
anywhere? But we found that people here in Lawrence didn’t think it was weird that this is all we do,
and that we disappear for months at a time. They’re not going, ‘But what do you guys really do?’
Plus we’ve found so many fantastic musicians here, and they’re willing to work for cheap because
they work hard. The laziest, highest hippie here still has the Midwestern work ethic. People get stuff
done. They show up. The sound man comes to do sound for us, and he’s been bailing hay all day
long. ‘Well, you’ve got to get the hay in.’ And I just love that. This rock ‘n’ roll kid that’s been up
since 6 a.m. who will work until 3 a.m. It’s very cool, and it’s really different from New Orleans.”
West, born and raised in England, has a lot to say about how New Orleans made it possible for him
to become a professional musician in the first place and proved to him that the life he wanted was
possible—a lesson that’s made it possible for Truckstop Honeymoon to not just survive, but
continue to grow, in Kansas:
“People outside New Orleans and a few other places have this idea that professional musicians
must be absolutely brilliant because you basically have to be Britney Spears to be viable in the
larger music economy,” he says. “But if you do it like a regular job, you can actually get by. That’s a
New Orleans thing—no middle man. A few months ago, we opened for Del McCoury, and what really impressed me is that his wife is running the merch, and has done for the length of his career. They
have agents and a label, but their bottom line is: ‘We make a living doing this, and we don’t pretend
we’re going to be pop stars. We play bluegrass music, and it’s a fringe genre.’ You can only make
so much money.
“New Orleans is full of that. There’s no pretense. There is no ladder to climb. There are rooms that
sell liquor and you’re the entertainment. You’re just there to make it fun for people to drink, so they
don’t drink at home. Coming from England, New Orleans was such a good wake-up call for me
because the only viable musician in England is one that has a hit, so you’re always trying to have a
hit and always working for free to try to make it so you have a hit, paying promotional people and
agents and such, and you never see a dime. And it would never occur to you that you should
because you thought you had to reach this other level, that it wasn’t just a job, like a carpenter.
“I was in pop groups and we were so snotty about the cover bands that would play the little pubs
because they didn’t play original music. Then I got to New Orleans and there’s only bars and
sometimes you go in and there’s a loud art rock band and the next night there’s French jazz with a
clarinet. It’s the same venue, it’s the same bartender. It’s just a place.”
Making the transition from England to New Orleans allowed West to let go of both some hopes of
stardom and some fears of failure that had been keeping him from building what he actually wanted
—a musician’s life:
“In New Orleans, you have that nice thing where the jazz player also plays in a noise band and it’s a
good band and it’s fun and something totally different,” he says. “Why not? You’ve got Thursdays
off. Sure! There’s nothing to be lost. If you like the music, then you do it. Whereas in England it
would be, ‘Mike, I don’t think you should be sitting in with a jazz band; you’re an indie pop guy.’ The
scales fell from my eyes when I came to New Orleans. As soon as I stopped trying to enter the
hallow domain of celebrity stars with the very important band, I started making a living for the first
time in my life, playing music.”
When Euliss and West began touring as Truckstop Honeymoon, they stuck to the same basic
philosophy. Decisions about where to perform were often based on whether they could get a free
meal, or a couch to sleep on. West is happy to call himself a made-in-New-Orleans “cottage
hustler,” doing whatever it takes to have a house and raise a family while playing music and not
having to go bartend after the kids go to bed:
“We do house concerts. We love house concerts. Basically, it’s the rent party. You show up and it’s
somebody’s living room and they get 50 people in and they pay $15 a piece and they give you all
the money, and they get a free concert. It’s golden. If they went out into town to see you, by the
time they’d bought all their friends drinks and paid for the taxi, they’d be $100 in the hole. And you
make more money than you’d be paid at a venue.”
The success of Truckstop Honeymoon’s house parties eventually caught the interest of some
music venues. One tried to get Euliss and West to come play for little to no money, as if the
opportunity to play a large club was compensation enough and a positive career move. West scoffs:
“Don’t do the thing of ‘This is an important step,’ because I don’t play anywhere as a step. We’re not
doing this so that tomorrow we’ll be elevated people, ‘improved.’ There’s no meaning to it.”
Touring with four kids, albeit difficult, has also proven to be a manageable challenge. They found
asking club owners to find a babysitter for the evening was often met with blank stares and worried
mumbling, “We don’t allow kids here,” as if the children would be hanging out backstage instead of
in a hotel room nearby. Instead, they’ve done well finding their own through the friends-and- fans
circuit with its vast social network.
Barefooted Essie has stepped in chicken poop outside and is dragging her feet in the grass. She
went looking for eggs in the chicken coop and there were none. There’s no bread for breakfast, but there is granola, which everyone enjoys, along with the non-homogenized, non-pasteurized milk from
a large glass jug in the fridge. A small post-it note on the jug says “Barb.” West realizes he swiped
someone else’s milk.
It’s a much simpler life than pop stars lead, but it works for Truckstop Honeymoon, and they learned
how to do it in New Orleans:
“Basically, we’ll play anywhere we can sell CDs and get a free meal. It’s $50 or $100 at a time.
That’s the level we’re at. We don’t have a tour manager to pay, we’re not paying agent’s
commission. We’re not paying anybody except the babysitter, and if we sell 20 CDs tonight we just
made gas, - OFF BEAT MAGAZINE


""Great Big Family" CD review"

Mike West and Katie Euliss, the eccentric duo behind Truckstop Honeymoon, just released their fifth CD, Great Big Family, an album of catchy but truthful and humorous original songs. The couple met in the French Quarter, had a courthouse wedding, and spent their wedding night at a truck stop somewhere between Lafayette and the Atchafalaya basin – thus the band Truckstop Honeymoon was born. The pair plays a dozen instruments between them on Great Big Family, and the songs have surprising depth that contrasts with the raucous humor. Some songs may even surprise you with a sense of melancholy and loss. The song “The River and the Lake,” about a chance meeting with a stranger from New Orleans is snappy and catchy, but it’s actually about people who lost everything, and the song “Blue Ribbon” is a wistful tune about expectations at a county fair. Then, just to keep you guessing, Katie Euliss sings a humorous blues tune about aging: “The neighborhood boys don’t even whistle/I can ride through the ‘hood without packin’ a pistol” in the song “Nobody Asks Me.” Once Great Big Family ends, you realize that Truckstop Honeymoon swept you along for the eventful, 14-song ride that is Mike West and Katie Euliss’s bizarre but charmed and entertaining life. –Jordan Sha - Where Y'at Magazine, New Orleans


""Truckstop Delivers new cuts""

One of the great pleasures in life is dipping into a new record from Truckstop Honeymoon. Diamonds in the Asphalt, the latest from Katie Euliss and Mike West, is nothing less than the husband-wife duo at its best. Like past Truckstop records, Diamonds offers listeners unique takes on life, love and the pursuit of domestic happiness. But unlike those previous efforts, this record casts the Lawrence-based outfit as a rock ’n’ roll band that hasn’t lost touch with its hillbilly roots.
Euliss and West traverse a wide sonic universe, ranging from rockabilly (the opening “Rockabilly Debutante”) to Tammy and George-style country (“Diamonds in the Asphalt”) to bold, bawdy ballroom (“Bad Attitude”) and the album is all better—and more interesting—for it. While West—who’s authored hundreds of songs—delivers some of his career best here, Euliss emerges, perhaps for the first time on record, as the star of the event. She tackles domestic ennui in the muscular “The Ordinary Things,” coming off as smart and sassy (“I don’t want to play no country music/that shit just makes me feel old/I don’t wanna wear no piece of clothing I gotta wash and dry and fold/I wanna put on lipstick, baby/I want to look hot”); she tackles the duplicity in the heart of every woman in “Bad Attitude” with a sweet acidity that’d make Dorothy Parker proud, gets downright sexy in “Lotus Blossom” and chronicles one woman’s spiral into addiction and loneliness with uncommon knowing (“Never Look Back”).
As distinct as the record is from previous TH outings, one thing remains consistent: no one tempers light with dark the way that West and Euliss can. They take up the dangers of falling in like with a woman with a monkey on her back and lint lining her pockets (“Strawberry”) just moments after concluding the heartbreakingly beautiful title cut that carries with it the sweet sentimentality of classic country and a timeless universality. Elsewhere, there’s a funny and frightening portrait of pesticide season in Louisiana (“Malathion Man”), a he-says/she-says portrait of a pathetic drunk finally getting his comeuppance (“Open the Door”) and a kind of answer to “Ordinary Things” with the thoroughly thoughtful “Night Out In.” All the songs are grounded deep in the world of the physical and with pleasant predictability, the duo captures a sense of place that in several tracks that is often stunning, sometimes sad, but never less than true. The West-sung “Wichita” (“Wichita is a pretty good town/the people are nice all around/Wichita is ain’t a bad place to be/but it’s Wichita that’s killing me”) feels like the kind of song that could have only come from one of our own but could also just as easily be about Denton, Detroit or Baton Rouge. It’s filled with the hopelessness that visits each of us in the darkest hours, those times when we dream that throwing our belongings in a U-Haul and driving away will cure all our ills and the realization that such an escape won’t bring us more peace, that the calm must come from within. The penultimate “How Long” melds the leaving of a lover with the leaving of a home place and is tempered with the sadness that leaving brings (“As ugly as it is/she’s as beautiful as she ever was”) and is delivered in the worn-butstrong way that has become West’s trademark. And as the final notes of the soothing “Home” fade and we start the record again, we can only hope that there will be many, many more to come. - Wichita City Paper


""Great Big Family" CD review"

If you want to know what’s been happening with Truckstop Honeymoon since their Katrina-induced
Kansas relocation, it’s all right here. The fifth disc from the husband-and-wife acoustic duo Mike West
and Katie Euliss continues their highly personal, autobiographical songwriting that’s so honest and
revealing, their lives may as well be on display in a New York City department store window. Whether
it’s family additions, aging, farewell to the single life and hello to mainstream mommyhood, change is
the prevailing theme here. On the cleverly concocted “The Girl I Used to Be,” Euliss stages a faux
memorial service of her former self, then launches into a peppier second movement where vestiges of
a past life—mink coats and snakeskin boots—are also cast aside. West recalls a conversation with a
fellow evacuee (“The River & The Lake”) and reflects upon various relationships that, at this point, are
mostly memories (“Georgia & Blue,” “Don’t Think”).
Yet, not every song ties into change. The swing-styled “The Cover of the N.Y.T” sarcastically celebrates being on the cover of
the New York Times despite the catastrophe that got them there. “Sinner’s Prayer” is even more outrageous. West fumbles for
positive thoughts regarding the dearly deceased only to summon up: “I hope you have them fooled in heaven like you had ’em
fooled on Earth / And you’re taking all the saints for everything they’re worth.” Even though change means a Midwestern
existence these days, a New Orleans sensibility, offbeat humor and counterculture street life will always be ingrained in their
music. - Off Beat Magazine


""Come Honeymoon or High Water""

More than 18 months after a biblical hurricane and its floodwaters wiped her family’s worldly possessions off the face of New Orleans, Katie Euliss feels settled in once again. She and Mike West, her husband and partner in Truckstop Honeymoon, have re-established a homestead and
reconstituted their business in an old house in the Pinckney neighborhood of old west Lawrence. Life isn’t the same, but it’s routine again, as routine as it can get when you’re a married couple with two young homeschooled children (and another on the way) that tours all over the world and runs bands and other performers through your household recording studio. Lawrence isn’t New Orleans, but it has become home. “It’s a good place for us,” Euliss said. “We had so many fans up here and people who wanted to record with Mike. It’s a good spot.”
Euliss and West met years ago in New Orleans, where both were scratching together livings as singer-songwriters and street musicians. They started collaborating and touring. Then they got married. According to their official bio: “They spent their wedding night in the Tiger Truck Stop somewhere between Lafayette and the Atchafalya Swamp.
Truckstop Honeymoon was born.” The two had made a good life in the Ninth Ward of the Crescent City, doing then what they’ve resumed doing in Lawrence: making records, recording other artists in their studio (the Ninth Ward Pickin’ Parlor) and touring all over the world — including a stop in Australia, where West was born and lived until he was almost 2 years old. The family was on tour, away from New Orleans, in August 2005, so everything they owned was in the house when Katrina hit, including a roommate and their two dogs, all of whom survived. Their Web site includes several accounts of how their housemate saved their dogs and made it on lots of cable TV news programs. Their house, which stood within sight of a breached levee, was left standing, but everything else was washed away by waters that rose to 8 feet, including their neighborhood and network of friends and acquaintances.
That’s when other friends stepped in to help Euliss and West start a new life. The two had made a name for themselves at the annual bluegrass festival in Winfield, Kan. That’s where they got to know Split Lip Rayfield and the late Kirk Rundstrom, and it’s how they came to pick Kansas as a place for a new home and life. “Kirk invited us up to come to Wichita and live in his basement while we figured out what to do,” Euliss said. “It was
kind of a random thing, but it has worked out. We’re real happy with it.”
This year Truckstop Honeymoon released its fourth full-length CD, “Diamonds in the Asphalt.” It’s the first Truckstop album recorded in its Lawrence studio. Despite the relocation and the new locale, the process went relatively smoothly.
“We really like this record,” Euliss said. “It was a lot of fun to make. Mike got a new crappy amp to use and went nuts on the electric guitar. It has a fun rock ’n’ roll and R&B sound with some old country touches. “We were pretty settled into the studio by the time we started it. We had time to get it finished; we weren’t under the insane amount of pressure or stress we’d been under before when we tried to fit in making a record with touring.”
Last year, Euliss said, they were out on the road for well over half the year, including a second tour of Australia.
“That was awesome,” she said. “It was a great way to get out of the cold. We made tons of friends and connections and drummed up more work than we could do.” They won’t be touring a lot between now and mid-summer. Euliss is expecting a third child in early June. After that,
she’ll spend awhile “getting back on my feet.”
“We’ll be doing mostly local shows in May and June and July,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of studio work coming through. So I’ll chill out and work in the studio with Mike. I play bass on a lot of his records.”
Lawrence hasn’t replaced New Orleans, she said, but every day it becomes something more like home.
“We’ve met a lot of people in the music community,” she said. “When we first got here, we didn’t really know anyone playing music locally for session work. Now we do. …
“The way we’re set up, we don’t really have to deal much with the outside world, unless we decide to go out for coffee. The kids stay with us; we homeschool them. It’s all good.” - Kansas City Star


"Blue Mountain Blues fest review"

When the richest sentiments are expressed without pretension, there is gold. Truckstop Honeymoon are capable of this. They made rooms full of people happy on a regular basis, at Katoomba Blues and Roots + Folk Festival. The idea of them made couples in the room feel stronger; they are beautiful, earthy and clever; the show they bring out is clever, the protest they suggest in their songs is a beautiful blow. The mountains were richer for their presence.The Honeymooners are alive with good song and the lyrics spot on. The drive in their music hard to resist. Populating their songs with the sometimes good sometimes scary voters, taxpayers, cheque-collecters and unconsidered others they meet and live amongst, they speak ably. I caught them twice, it worked both times. Bought two albums and envied their prospects, which are very good on current performance. I suspect these discs will keep me good company for a long while, whether driving or rocking, waltzing or chewing. Songs like “Magnolia Tree” stay with you long past the next festival, affecting and simple. Truckstop honeymoon write songs that will go straight into the songbook. If barefoot stringpickin honest songs are kept by our young, these will be amongst them.
I wouldn’t wish upon anyone to live out their life from a suitcase forever, but if they can sustain it, and baby gets an education, we won’t be the poorer for it.
Hillbilly or swampfolk, I see them in the pantheon with Woody, but not forever beholden to him. They pull it off, as it were! This is one dangerous marriage. This union takes the wind out of rednecks. Or rather they breathe oxygen into the sound. They replace the cocky moonshine, pickups and shotguns with consciousness worthy of the name. Their work is increasing the repertoire of possibilities available to connoisseurs of banjo and upright bass, whomever that might be. And in their humour is insight that dismantles cliché one verse at a time. What they proffer I prefer. “Capitol Hill (I’m tired)” is a sharp tool hammering a good point home. Little bits of magic stick with you, though, like the “Weeki Wachee Mermaid”, brought to us at Katoomba accompanied by a charming, tap dancing, babysitting northcoast n.s.w. talent, name of Aileen. I felt stupidly happy that one of us was up there with both of them. (or possibly 2 of us). The folk festival is doing its job by bringing us this pair.

Talent like this won’t wilt in the face of life but grow richer with it, I hope we hear more. - Victoria Mist (Blog)


Discography

Truckstop Honeymoon (Squirrel 2003)
Christmas in Ocala (Squirrel 2004)
Delivery Boy (Squirrel 2005)
Diamonds in The Asphalt (Squirrel 2007)
Great Big Family (Squirrel 2008)
I Won't Let the Angels Take You Away (DVD 2008)
Homemade Haircut (2010)
Steamboat in a Cornfield (2011)

Photos

Bio

Hollering with all their heart over a five string banjo and a doghouse bass, Truckstop Honeymoon live the life they sing about. Touring across three continents with four kids and a truck load of songs, Katie Euliss and Mike West tell stories about the strangeness of everyday life. Their music combines elements of Midwestern bluegrass and old music hall jazz, spiked with vaudeville wit and showmanship. The duo relocated to Kansas from New Orleans after the 2005 flood and their latest CD, “Steamboat in a Cornfield”, shows the influences of both the Kansas prairie and the Mississippi delta.

Katie learned whore-house piano and bucket bass in the streets of New Orleans. There she met Mike, a banjo-slinging grifter who sold CDs he claimed cured hangovers and small-mindedness. After a court house wedding, the pair hit the road. They spent their wedding night in a truck stop somewhere between Lafayette and the Atchafalya Swamp. There Truckstop Honemoon was born. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina washed them out of their home in the Lower 9th ward of New Orleans and landed them in Lawrence, Kansas.

Truckstop Honeymoon have appeared at festivals and roadhouses across North America, Europe and Australia, releasing seven CDs on Baton Rouge label Squirrel Records. A full length documentary film by Nathan King Miller, “I Won’t Let The Angels Take You Away” , is available on DVD.