The Honey Dewdrops & The Grascals reviews

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

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

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