The past couple of years have been tough for the majority of us, but especially so for those within the music and arts community. Music venue closures and lack of touring opportunities during the height of the pandemic were (in the grand scheme of things) merely an inconvenience for a live music junkie like myself, but for many of the artists out there, their careers and income sources were dealt a devastating blow. But, following a lengthy hiatus from attending shows (from mid-March 2020), the first live music opportunity that put this particular music fan ‘back in the saddle’ presented itself almost 18 months later, thanks to an event featuring Baltimore, MD Americana duo, The Honey Dewdrops.
That October evening did not only rejuvenate a stagnant passion for the live music experience, it also provided the husband/wife duo of Kagey Parrish (guitar/mandolin/vocals) and Laura Wortman (guitar/banjo/vocals) some time to road-test a selection of new compositions written during their own pandemic-forced down time. Returning to the present, The Honey Dewdrops are ready to release their new album, “Light Behind Light,” this coming Friday, and thanks to the team at the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, the duo returned to the historic Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg, PA to share their music once more. “We’re so happy to be back here. It’s been so long and so much has happened,” offered Laura. “I can’t quite remember what year it was the last time we were here.” “I think it was like 2019, early 2019,” Kagey added. “I think it was cold.” Pause for some laughter. “Have you ever noticed the details we’re remembering before the pandemic,” joked Laura. “It was cold, I think! It’s like all we can come up with.”
Reacquainting themselves with the crowd at Susquehanna Folk for their third time, The Honey Dewdrops performed two outstanding sets, mixing in new compositions with a great cross-section of their popular back catalog. For those partial to their 2019 “Anyone Can See” album, the duo did not disappoint – opening with “More Than You Should Say,” and adding in “Rainy Windows,” “Going Rate,” and their rendition of Hank Williams’ classic “Ramblin’ Man” during the evening. They would also select a handful of tracks from their 2016 “Tangled Country” album, filling the room with the sounds of “Hold Love,” “Same Old,” and one of my personal favorites, “Loneliest Songs.”
Acknowledging that this year represents the tenth anniversary of their “Silver Lining” album, the duo happily performed the title track, along with Laura’s stunning banjo-focused instrumental track, “Catawba.” Making a few final adjustments to her banjo, she would inform the room that she and Kagey recently saw a performance by acoustic bluegrass guitarist David Grier, and were amused by how he legitimizes each song he plays as an ‘old-time’ song by adding ‘Little Darlin’’ at the end of the title. “So, we’ll call this ‘Catawba Little Darlin’,’ to keep it in the old-time tradition,” she joked. And following the close of this popular piece, Kagey would keep the string of this tale alive, adding, “We’ll finish up this first set with Same Old, or ‘Same Old Little Darlin’,” much to the amusement of the room.
For those who follow The Honey Dewdrops on social media, the performances of new album cuts such as “Garden,” “Moon Pies,” and Kagey’s stunning new offering, “Tuning To,” may not have necessarily been considered ‘first listens.’ Having seen those recent posts, and being privy to hearing these tracks last October, I enjoyed the warm familiarity they presented – but with the inclusion of “Delia,” the duo offered up a fabulous new tune that even this music junkie could only vaguely recall from that previous show. “I had a line that came to me – the hand of death and the hand of life – this was like April 2020,” Kagey stated. “And then I had another line come after that … they go walking together side by side.” He would share a brief historical overview of the story behind ‘Stagger Lee,’ a popular American folk song about the murder of Billy Lyons by “Stag” Lee Shelton, in St. Louis, MO in 1895. “So, I started writing my own adaptation of that story, and I didn’t know that was inside me, but I’ve listened to that song a ton, done by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt to The Grateful Dead,” he added. “There’s a lot of possibilities with these old stories, and we call our version Delia, because in the story, Delia, who is the partner of Billy who gets murdered, she has her revenge on Stagger Lee. Delia is pushed to the side of that story, so we felt like it was a good opportunity to put Delia at the center here.” “I love these songs where the woman gets revenge in the end,” added Laura, a coy smile on her face as many in the room offered their agreement.
As the evening drew to a close, The Honey Dewdrops returned to the upcoming album one last time, opting to share a deeply moving performance of “Holy Hymn.” Written in 2019, and posed to a friend in crisis, the duo state that this one could be for anyone, anywhere during the last few years (source: Artist Website). I personally feel that this tune already has an aura of timelessness surrounding it, and will no doubt prove a popular and highly requested live number for many years to come, especially as a potent closing track to send the audience home. Following a well-earned standing ovation from an appreciative crowd, the duo sought permission to perform one more number, and once granted, quickly decided on a lively and entertaining cover of “I Bid You Goodnight.” For those paying careful attention to Kagey’s historical overview about Stagger Lee earlier in the evening, returning full-circle to end the show with their own version of a Grateful Dead number should not be entirely lost on you. I see what you did there guys – well played, well played. Another outstanding performance from this very talented duo, who we truly hope to connect with at another show again soon.
- More Than You Should Say
- Hold Love
- Delia (New Track)
- Moon Pies (New Track)
- Weep (New Track)
- Going Rate
- For One More
- Catawba (Instrumental)
- Same Old
- Rainy Windows
- Garden (New Track)
- Loneliest Songs
- Silver Lining
- Tuning To (New Track)
- Ramblin’ Man (Hank Williams cover)
- Holy Hymn (New Track)
- We Bid You Goodnight (Grateful Dead cover)
The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.