Old school bluegrass style getting new age radio airplay

Local’s Pub has blues every Friday night. The Rick Macleod Band is slated for tonight, with Bill Bowey on Jan. 28 and the Rault Brothers on Feb. 11.

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Local’s Pub has blues every Friday night. The Rick Macleod Band is slated for tonight, with Bill Bowey on Jan. 28 and the Rault Brothers on Feb. 11.

Chris Jones and the Night Drivers bring bluegrass to Red Deer on Jan. 29 when the Waskasoo Bluegrass Music Society presents an evening of impressive acoustic music at the The Elks Lodge.

Tickets ($25) are available at the usual outlets including 53rd Street Music, Red Deer Box Exchange, The Key Hole, Parkland Mall Service Desk, Innisfail’s Jackson’s Pharmasave, Lacombe’s Popow’s Auto Body, and Old’s Dee J’s. Call Gale at 403-347-1363 for information.

Blues harp mainstay Mark Hummel roars into town on Feb. 24 for a gig at the Elks Lodge.

On March 26, Mark Sterling appears at The Matchbox for an evening of blues-based, guitar music; the last time he appeared, the place sold out. Mark Lent guests. Drop by the box office for tickets.

This week’s disc review:

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 10-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.

Donald Teplyske is a local freelance writer who contributes a twice-monthly column on roots music; visit fervorcoulee.wordpress.com for additional reviews. If you know a roots music event of which he should be aware, contact him at fervorcoulee@shaw.ca

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