The Honey Dewdrops- Tangled Country review   1 comment

HD_TangleCountry_FrontCov_HRThe Honey Dewdrops Tangled Country


As a result of the quality of their previous three releases, The Honey Dewdrops have become a personal favourite. Songs like “How We Used to Be,” “One Kind Word,” “Goodbye and Farewell,” “Hills of my Home,” “Way Back When,” and “Amaranth” have been appreciated on many a journey, and on more than a few late nights.

For whatever reason, Tangled Country, the duo of Kagey Parrish (guitar and mandolin) and Laura Wortman (banjo, guitar, harmonica) fourth recording, took longer to work its way in. Whether because I’ve been overwhelmed with projects to review, because it is a bit more elaborately presented than their previous recordings, or some other reason now lost, I regretfully dismissed Tangled Country after a couple listens.

I am certainly glad I worked my way back to it this weekend.

While it is true that this recording features musicians in addition to the husband-wife pairing of Parris and Wortman, Tangled Country is still a pretty bare bones, homey effort. Producer Nicholas Sjostrom contributes bass and piano, both of which are unobtrusive to the duet’s insular, connected sound. Dave Hadley’s pedal steel and E.J. Shaull-Thompson’s minimal percussion similarly work in conjunction with Wortman’s light, but ever-spirited voice and Parrish’s rolling, swooning tenor.

It is different, but not so different to be an entirely unfamiliar groove. As is suggested in Tangled Country’s lead track, “Same old me, same old you.”

Now based in Baltimore, The Honey Dewdrops sing and perform pensive songs that gently demand the listener’s engagement. Frequently compared to David Rawlings and Gillian Welch, the duo does a little on this album to discourage this (perhaps) too easy assessment. On songs like the completely enjoyable “Loneliest Songs” the similarities are apparent. Elsewhere, as on the forlorn, descriptive “Lowlands” and the instrumentally deep “Hold Love,” their approach is entirely their own. “Numb” provides Wortman with an opportunity to sing in a broader and richer voice, less constrained by the structures of a folky, male-female vocal duo.

Paying homage to their contemporaries and influences within “Guitars,” Wortman sings, “We breathe songs.” Other images are as evocative. Parrish, singing of friends settling into mortgages and renovations, “we don’t light up the late nights like we did;” where the song’s character has been left behind, it is apparent that Wortman and Parrish are more comfortable setting roots and maturing, and are confident their fellow within “Young” will get there, too.

“Fair Share Blues” may prove to be the album’s lasting contribution to the crowded Americana rootsfest that is modern folk. Over a clip-clopping rhythm of banjo and guitar, changes—changing times, changing ways of thinking, changing circumstances— are again considered: “They were born long before I came, they’ll outlive my weary old, wrinkled brain.”

The gentle “Remington” closes the set on pensive instrumental notes, perhaps providing accompaniment to the closing credits had Tangled Country been a cinematic journey.

And, in many ways, it is— each song providing a brief vignette of mood, emotion, and narrative which, taken together, embroider the current state of The Honey Dewdrops.

Thanks for finding Fervor Coulee. Donald

One response to “The Honey Dewdrops- Tangled Country review

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  1. Pingback: Fiddle & Banjo review | Fervor Coulee- roots music opinion

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