In the 2012 liner notes to The Honey Dewdrops' third album Silver Lining, there is a small black and white photograph of six friends, their faces framed by the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of Catawba, Virginia rising to tangled heights in the distance. This off-the-cuff snapshot offers a glimpse into what inspires husband and wife Kagey Parrish and Laura Wortman. In Silver Lining we feel the presence of the natural world invited back in unplugged, unvarnished, surrounded by new and old friends, loved ones, fellow troubadours. We mourn the loss of the land in songs like "Hills of My Home," an elegy to the aftermath of mountaintop removal, and we rejoice and become uplifted in the Townes van Zandt-like simplicity of lines like "Laying low and flying high / Showing where the colors hide / In the space between you and I." By the end of the record, we become part of a new photograph, we too become "together tied," to name another one of the indelible tracks off Silver Lining. "Home like water collects us by and by / And reaches over distance / to hold us together tied," the duo sings. This is the experience of hearing The Honey Dewdrops: to be suddenly pulled out of daily orbits, and brought back down to the enduring truths that reside in kindred people and places.
The sparseness and beauty of the Dewdrops' playing is matched by the integrity of their songwriting. Take for example "One Kind Word" the first track off Silver Lining which like all great songs is both specific and general and powerful enough to be both: "My head is cold like my hands and feet / I'm looking around for something to eat / I've got time got nowhere to go / Broke down here close to the bone / I don't want everything I see / I just want the little bit you promised me." Earnestness is the chief quality of the Dewdrops' songwriting. In "One Kind Word" we are thrust into the shoes of someone inhabiting the edge of comfortable life with no direction home. Where is the Promised Land here? Where is the abundance that could overwhelm the dust storm? It has all gone to "promissory notes and worthless things." And yet he must endure and his endurance is founded upon a realization we all struggle our whole lives to ascertain: "I don't want for what I need / A heart that beats and lungs to breathe / Ear to the ground all the time / For one kind word that's mine all mine." This incredible duo has their ear to the ground and if we are lucky we get to listen along with them.
Step into any coffeehouse like Eddie's Attic in Decatur or Club Passim in Boston to main stages as far away as Seattle and Winnipeg, and you will hear the work the Dewdrops have undertaken over the past few years to achieve the raw simplicity of their art. Using a handful of acoustic instruments and two voices, Laura and Kagey strive for clarity over effects and ornamentation. It's what you have left when you strip everything back down to zero. It rocks, it reels, and then it consoles you when you come back down.
The past year has seen a flurry of tours, workshops, house concerts, and festivals for the duo and the momentum has become a way of life. The accolades keep coming in but like real artists, they will never truly define them. For Kagey and Laura it is wherever they hang their hat that is home. The art of the road for them is about making every stop count, never leaving, always arriving. (James Potter, Middleburg, Virginia)
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