Welcome back to Fervor Coulee. In today’s Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate I feature the relatively new album from The Honey Dewdrops, These Old Roots. As was their previous release, it is a darn good listen- sure to become a favourite.
Roots music column, originally published January 21, 2011 in the Red Deer Advocate
The Honey Dewdrops These Old Roots www.thehoneydewdrops.com
In the absence of new Gillian Welch recordings, this Virginia-based duo is becoming a favourite.
On their previous album If the Sun Will Shine, Kagey Parrish and Laura Wortman established an ideal balance of slo-fi folk and bluegrass, creating one of 2009’s finest acoustiblue releases.
Still sounding fresh and bright, The Honey Dewdrops have similarly captured magic with These Old Roots. The acclaim is increasingly universal; according to folk radio airplay, this charming couple received more spins last year than the likes of John Prine, Crooked Still, and even Johnny Cash.
Wortman’s voice has musical purity and in Parrish she has a pleasing harmony and instrumental foil. Similar to Welch in almost all ways excepting that Wortman tends to sing with a bit more zip, this ten-song collection breezes by in a flash.
With a wandering eye Wortman sings, “So goodbye and farewell, I’m going away, there are words my tongue can’t say,” and in the best of folk traditions also sings the spurned lover’s response, “If your mind don’t sway, your life I’ll take right here.” Their fate is left open-ended, but one expects things didn’t work out as initially planned. Similar in theme, Waiting on You allows she who betrayed to exit with her dignity- and soul- intact.
Not to be missed are Parrish’s guitar and mandolin performances. He achieves a nice tone from his instruments, and his flat-picked breaks are truly impressive without detracting from the vocals. Examples are aplenty with his playing on Goodbye and Farewell and Way Back When standing out. It is on this latter song that Gillian Welch-Dave Rawlings comparisons are most apt.
The lyrical lament Amaranth, an animistic ode to a plant whose blossoms never fade, sets the tone for These Old Roots. Nobody in this World follows a blues structure while their rendition of Can’t Get a Letter from Home brings us back to the mountain folk tradition.
Music with roots in Appalachia frequently contains religious themes and imagery, and That Good Old Way and Sweet Heaven are stellar.
Traditional music sometimes feels like it was made for another time. Instead, These Old Roots simply sounds timeless.
Thanks, as always, for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Things have been quite on the Fervor Coulee front lately, and for that I apologize. I’ve been busy with real life commitments, meaning FC has gone on the back-burner. This week in my Red Deer Advocate Roots Music column I review the latest from The Honey Dewdrops and The Grascals. (Originally published in the Red Deer Advocate, April 16, 2010)
The Honey Dewdrops If The Sun Will Shine www.thehoneydewdrops.com
The Honey Dewdrops are the Virginia-based husband and wife team of Kagey Parrish and Laura Wortman, and they make some of the sweetest slo-fi sounds this side of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
Comprised entirely of original material, If The Sun Will Shine is so open and delicate an acoustic folk listening experience that it flies by in a flash. Wortman takes the leads and plays guitar with Parrish harmonizing and contributing both guitar and mandolin.
The songs are poetic, deceptively simple but substantial; the duo’s approach to instrumentation and arrangement are similarly straight-forward. Wortman’s captivating voice delivers lyrics that are devastating in their gorgeousness:
Shadows in here, crowd the floor
Echo calls, can’t hear no more
Gets so loud, when I’m all alone
My ears’ll bleed that whisper tone
-from “How We Used to Be”
Why does this album appeal so dramatically? Perhaps it is the comforting honesty flowing within the writing and performance.
Sometimes, an album grabs you and you don’t exactly knowwhy; you’re just glad it does.
Give The Honey Dewdrops a listen and see if you don’t fall under their spell.
The Grascals The Famous Lefty Flynn’s Rounder
Having been awarded several industry awards during their ongoing run as a premier bluegrass outfit, with The Famous Lefty Flynn’s The Grascals prove that there are few bands that can match them for studio mastery.
Not atypical in the bluegrass world, the Nashville-based group has experienced personnel changes; with the addition of Kristin Scott Benson on 5-string banjo and Jeremy Abshire on fiddle, the sextet remains formidable. The talents of the newcomers are especially apparent on less rambunctious numbers including “Out Comes the Sun” and an impressive rendering of Steve Earle’s “My Old Friend the Blues.”
The band has always had a way with story songs and they demonstrate this again with the title track which includes a bank robber, a jailbreak, death, and a fortune cached in a well. Also impressive are “Satan and Grandma” and “Up This Hill and Down”, a song from the Osborne Brothers. The novel inclusion of “Last Train to Clarksville” may have proven disruptive but instead is enlivened by a dynamic vocal approach.
Blending high-calibre bluegrass music with country hit-making possibilities has been something The Grascals have previously explored, and here they are joined by Hank Williams, Jr. for a convincing treatment of “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome”, a song written by Hank Sr. and Bill Monroe backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.
On their fourth album, The Grascals exhibit that they remain a bluegrass powerhouse, utilizing three-lead vocalists dexterously while maintaining a vibrant and multi-dimensional instrumental approach.
As always, thanks for visiting at Fervor Coulee. Donald