So delicately, tenderly soft are the tracks of The Honey Dewdrops’ Silver Lining that, even through headphones, it’s not entirely cutting out the saxophone busker on the street below who is playing “My Favorite Things” for the bazillionth time. Still, this is soothing music. And it’s pretty. And it’s much, much more than that, when given a thorough listen.
Opening track “One Kind Word” leads with the vocal of Kagey Parrish, half of the onstage duo/off-stage couple. Parrish plays guitar and Laura Wortman plays banjo. They both sing, his voice a warm tenor, hers a dusky mezzo-soprano that seems at home in her lower range. There’s a wistfulness, especially, to Wortman’s vocal. On “Hills Of My Home,” the lyrics about the loss of mountain habitat and culture ache against the simple backdrop of strings — though this is not Appalachian music in any traditional sense. At every turn it sounds fresh and newly imagined.
Watch a performance of “Hills Of My Home”:
Pretty as the harmonies between Wortman and Parrish are, instrumental track, “Catawba” is a stand out. It takes some cues from old-time, the banjo in the lead role with a light and bouncy melody. The guitar follows the same finger-style pattern, but lower, serving as a bass to the banjo’s bright voice.
The album’s title track showcases deftly-balanced vocal arrangements and instrumentation. The lyrics, emotive and sweet, are offered up with uncluttered honesty. Forthright and true, the only flourish is the round-like approach the couple takes with the chorus. But even that is only as complex as it needs to be, and the song is left mostly to stand on its own considerable charms.
Listen to “One Kind Word”:
“Happiness” is another example of how effortlessly Wortman and Parrish marry sentiment with economic instrumental style. Silver Lining employs a less-is-more tact from start to finish. Each track is laid back, easing through blue-grey soundscapes.
There’s no grandstanding, no pyrotechnics. (The record ends with the a cappella, near-spiritual “Bright Morning Star,” so pure and burnished to a gleam that it sucks the air from the room.) Instead, it’s a solid album with the kind of songs that, while resting neither squarely in Americana, folk, singer-songwriter or Appalachian classifications, is sure to be replayed often by fans of all of those genres.
Watch the Honey Dewdrops perform at The Altamont Theatre with Asheville’s Red June:
Band photo by Jack Looney.