The Honey Dewdrops
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The Honey Dewdrops

Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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"Here Comes the Sun"

Inevitably, Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish, the husband-and-wife duo making a name for itself as The Honey Dewdrops, are going to be compared to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Sharing a penchant for the melancholy in song is the most obvious common ground the two groups share, and Parrish, like Rawlings, is a six-string master, expert at inducing the most soulful, joyful noises out of mandolin and guitar, whereas Wortman, like Welch, plays a solid rhythm guitar and sings with haunting affectations in a voice that is not high lonesome but rather high and lonesome, especially the latter. The Dewdrops, though, are less self-consciously old-timey than Rawlings and Welch, and generally less studied and more nimble stylistically all around. In fact, the down-home warmth of even their darkest ruminations on this, their debut album, is reminiscent more of another husband-wife roots team, Bill Powers and Shelley Grey, in their incarnation as Honey Don’t (profiled in, October 2009) than of Welch and Rawlings. For some it may be six of one, half dozen of another, but any way you cut it the Dewdrops have something unique and oftimes mesmerizing recommending them in their plaintive harmonies, easygoing rhythms, evocative arrangements, well-crafted original songs, and a genuine approach that can’t be learned in school but must flow from a life affirming need to connect with other like-minded souls. Like Honey Don’t, they hearken back to a gentler time, without sounding antiquated in the least.

It probably doesn’t need to be pointed out how deeply melancholy some of the tunes are, with titles such as “When Was The War,” “How We Used To Be,” “Without Tears,” “Don’t Leave Me Here,” and “Nowhere To Stand.” And indeed, there is much love lost herein, but resilience surfaces too—right off the bat, in fact, in the breezy toe-tapper, “Blues Blue Eyes,” in which the singers both bid adieu to a departed lover, fight through being “tossed about” and “knocked down,” but vow to prevail against their troubles, even while being haunted by the old flame’s “hey honey babe” greeting. When they fall, they fall hard, though. The subdued heartbreaker, “Without Tears,” lends the devastation of lost love the tint of spiritual yearning by dint of its hymn-like arrangement and a powerful, moving final verse writ like scripture, complete with an unspoken appeal for divine intervention: “My back is bent and broken/the weight around my neck/I just keep wandering/no earthly end in sight.” The album closing “Petals” is equally striking in its images of a life rent asunder by loneliness, “like petals on a slow stream,” and evokes the healing power of nature in “crickets there to laugh with me, singing when I moan” and “when I let the nighttime fold over me/then I’ll find you every time,” sung from a haunted soul, Parrish’s delicate, solemn fingerpicking providing an astringent setting for these mournful musings. “When Was the War” does not specify the conflict in question, but the story is that of a wife whose husband leaves for battle and returns permanently altered, not physically but emotionally and physically ravaged by the horrors of war (PTSD, clearly, but poetically rendered here). In contrast to the personal crises limned in other sad songs from the Dewdrops’ pens, “When Was the War” wastes no energy on sad reflection, but instead plays out over a terse, driving rhythm, its mood foreboding and seething all at once, in the process making one of the more disturbing, profound anti-war statements in recent memory.

That the Dewdrops get so deeply dark at points only makes the upbeat moments more effective. “Wandering Boy,” though a sayonara to a guitar pickin’ lad whose musical muse is bound to take him “this wide world over/never coming back to me,” sprints unhesitatingly ahead on the strength of Parrish’s brisk fingerpicking and Wortman’s spirited, undaunted vocal. “Stomping Ground,” though it recounts a woman’s leaving, captures a buoyant, optimistic spirit in its suggestion that the event in question is of a temporary nature, by way of its assuring chorus which likens her departure to that of the sun, and assures, “She’s coming back again,” in an easygoing, even comforting, backwoods arrangement awash in joyous feeling. So too does the instrumental workout “1918,” an occasion for Parrish to fashion a song-length mandolin solo, of 1:26 duration, that bends and curves and skips festively around and over Wortman’s sturdy rhythm guitar support, evoking not so much the year in question but rather the classic, rustic bluegrass template that has never fallen out of fashion. Which, come to think of it, might well serve as a description of the music of The Honey Dewdrops in years hence. - David McGee, The Bluegrass Special

"Just Like Honey"

When you’re a wanderer, each infrequent stop is a precious one. Since The Honey Dewdrops’ first-place win on A Prairie Home Companion’s “People in their Twenties Talent Show” in 2008, the Scottsville duo—Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish—has been in nearly constant motion. Earlier this year, the ’Drops released an 11-song debut album, If the Sun Will Shine, with a June 18 gig at Is, then promptly set off for a 15-state tour through house concert venues, coffee shops and any spots that offered Wortman and Parrish organic, locally grown grub. Not that we mind sharing our local Honeys; we’d just like ’em in our town for a bit.

This weekend, however, the Dewdrops wander back for a pair of gigs—a free Friday night set at the Charlottesville Pavilion with Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees, and a Saturday “In the Cabaret” gig at the Hamner Theater. (See calendar, page 24, for details.) For folks that missed the gig at Is—or the pair’s Last Waltz-y moment alongside Sons of Bill at The Paramount Theater for “Long Black Veil” —the pair of shows presents two fine chances to hear the Dewdrops’ new material before they wander off again, on an East Coast tour that runs through the end of the year.

The wanderlust theme runs thick throughout If the Sun Will Shine, in songs like “Fly Away Free” and “Wandering Boy,” and in the pair’s broken handhold harmonies in “Stomping Ground.” (“Love, like a sun/ behind the clouds and rain./ When you see her going/ she’s coming back again.”) But, musically, the band doesn’t stray too far from the contemporary take on Appalachian folk that musicians like Gillian Welch pursue.

The best instruments the pair has to offer—Wortman’s unblemished, Natalie Merchant vocals and Parrish’s long, restless fingers on the fretboard of anything stringed —are finely tuned, and the Dewdrops’ songcraft is consistent without being pushy. Parrish solos, and Wortman calls him home; she lyrically longs, and he restrains her with a mandolin fill here, a guitar riff there. Rather than ambitious in a modern sense, the songs on If the Sun Will Shine strive for the country-folk canon—traditional accuracy that, occasionally, strays to show the strengths of the two musicians. And, much like the Dewdrops’ weekend gigs, each return to simple songs feels like a welcome one. - Brendan Fitzgerald, C-Ville Weekly

"Cooking with New Releases (Better Read This Before You order)"

The Honey Dewdrops are a husband and wife duo from Scottsville, Virginia. Kagey Parish and Laura Wortman must have known each other for years; harmony singing this close is normally associated with brothers and sisters. The Dewdrops sound is old timey: guitar and mandolin or two guitars, but one of them with nylon or gut strings. Comparisons to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are obvious, but the material and delivery are so strong that it's hard not to like this album. In fact any concern about copycats is quickly replaced with wonder about why more singers don't borrow from Gillian & Dave.

"Nowhere to Stand" draws comparison to a card game and the game of life. "Fly Away Free" speaks to anyone ready to make a big move. "When Was the War" is a pre-answered question, but history and families appear doomed to keep asking. In each of these songs Laura's lead voice commands your attention and Kagey's guitar fills are tasteful. The Honey Dewdrops first received national attention by winning Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion contest in 2008 for "Talent in Their Twenties." The next question is this one: How good will these two be in their thirties? - Jim Blum, Folk Alley

"Rural Virginian"

“Armed with two guitars, melodic, enchanting voices, and heartfelt words that tell interesting stories, The Honey Dewdrops have got that something; you can call it charisma or familiarity but it is an entire package of talent and love of music and life that is going to carry them even further.” - Wendy Edwards

"Opening set for Sarah White"

A late addition to the bill (and relative newcomers to the local music scene), the Drops seem like the perfect band to fill any set length, 30 minutes or three hours—as pleasant and unobtrusive as a jukebox. The group's diminutive singer firmly wraps her gut around the center of each note and urges it out while her lead guitarist lends spare solos to each number, approaching but never overtaking the spotlight on covers of Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues" and a take on the "Old Time Religion" spiritual, the singer commanding the scene instead, crooning "old dash of morphine" over the refrain.

- Brendan Fizgerald, C-ville Weekly

"The Burg"

“Their music, recognized for its tight harmonies and meaningful lyrics, echoes traditional American Folk styles while incorporating the modern sounds of country and rock music.” - Liz Barry

"The Honey Dewdrops"

The Honey Dewdrops are a study in symmetry. He sings high and lonesome; she sings high and lonesome. He plays bluegrass like he’s got red dirt in his veins; she does too. He’s got music that aches and swoons with the melancholy of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, where he resides; she lives there too, in his house, as his bride-to-be.

Kagey Parrish towers over his fiancée, Laura Wortman, by a good two feet; regardless, these partners in music and in life are the kind of people love seats were created for. It’s hard to tell which came first, the love or the music, and it probably doesn’t matter. What’s important is the result, a seamlessness in their sound that helped The Honey Dewdrops take home first prize in this year’s People in Their Twenties Talent Show on A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor’s live radio variety show on NPR.

“We were riding around in the car one day listening to a re-run of Prairie Home, and they had an advertisement on about their talent show. All we really had to do was send them a link to our MySpace page,” Parrish recalls. “We entered in January and promptly forgot about it and didn’t think we stood a chance in hell.”

As it turns out, the handful of demo tracks on The Honey Dewdrops’ site were enough to convince contest organizers to select the duo as one of six finalists out of 1,000 contestants. One phone call later, Parrish and Wortman – who to that point performed primarily around their hometown of Scottsville, VA – were packing their bags for St. Paul, MN, where they would compete live during the Prairie Home broadcast in front of 1,000 attendees and an additional 3.9 million radio listeners.
“When we heard [we were selected], we were like, ‘Oh, my god. This is huge.’ We freaked out, our parents freaked out, our friends freaked out,” Parrish laughs. “I’m still telling people that I can’t believe that it happened.”

In the five months since they snagged Prairie Home’s coveted water tower trophy (aka “the Wobegon Idol”), The Honey Dewdrops have increased their profile considerably. Show offers are rolling in, and industry folks are starting to sniff around, including a few booking agents and record label A&R scouts. Needless to say, the two special education teachers have some rather juicy decisions to make.

Musically, Parrish and Wortman – who are set to marry in September – come from the Gillian Welch school of thought, mixing elements of bluegrass, folk, country and old-timey music with modern-day sentiment for something haunting, melancholic and altogether charming.

“I think that in those genres, things are very authentic,” Parrish explains. “It’s not about something that’s far out or something that’s avant-garde. I think there’s a lot to be said about focusing on the difficulties or problems that everyday people have.”
While he got his start in rock and roll, Parrish doesn’t see anything but acoustic music in his near future. And besides, with his fiancée as his musical partner, he doesn’t exactly need to play music in order to pick up girls.

“I’m not allowed to play rock and roll anymore for that reason,” he quips. - Jeff Royer, Fly Magazine

"Radio Win Sweet for Honey Duo"

Published: March 28, 2008

There’s a rising star in our midst.
It just took a little out-of-town recognition for us to take notice.
Oh, Laura Wortman and her fiance, Kagey Parrish, don’t have a CD — yet. (They are planning on heading into a studio in the next couple of weeks to lay down a few tracks.) But they do own a national title.
The two local musicians, better known as the Honey Dewdrops, were the No. 1 group on Garrison Keillor’s latest public radio contest, “Talented Twenty-Somethings.”
“Kagey and I were listening to ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ a couple of months ago and they announced they were going to have a talent show,” Wortman said.
PHC usually seeks out talents from small towns with populations of less than 2,000. But this year and last, it opened the field to any young hopefuls, regardless of their hometown size.
“You could send in a MySpace page link or a CD, but we didn’t have a CD,” said Wortman, who is a special education teaching assistant at Scottsville Elementary School. Parrish is a special education teacher at Charlottesville High School.
They were in a pool of more than 1,000 entries to the contest.
“The last week in February, we were called and told that we were one of six acts invited to perform on the program."
“It was fantastic,” she said. “They flew us to Minnesota and put us up in a fancy hotel. We both have been listening to the show since we were kids, so it was really exciting.”
Their first taste of the competition came on March 14.
“We did a show Friday night before a live audience,” Wortman said. “It wasn’t broadcast. I think they just wanted to let us get our nervousness out.”
It also was the couple’s first chance to size up the competition.
“We didn’t know much about them, but we did some research [online],” she said. “But after Friday’s show we didn’t think we stood a chance.”
One of the finalists, Ashley Monroe, had written songs for Carrie Underwood. Another had performed with Brooks and Dunn.
“We were completely blown away,” Wortman said.
But the Charlottesville duo blew the audience away the following night with their renditions of two songs by Johnny Cash and Dwight Yoakam as Keillor watched in the wings.
“The audience in the theater voted on a ballot and they opened up the radio polls for a half-hour,” she said. “The votes got tallied and 30 seconds before they made the announcement, they told us that we were first.”
For their victory encore, the Honey Dewdrops played one of their original songs.
“When we got back to town we found out that 4.3 million people had listened on the radio,” Wortman said. “I’m glad I didn’t know that when I was at the microphone.”
- Mary Alice Blackwell, Charlottesville Daily Progress


* These Old Roots (2010)
* If the Sun Will Shine (2009)



Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish are the Honey Dewdrops: an award winning, nationally touring husband and wife folk duet who perform fresh, original songs focusing on vocal harmonies and tight instrumentation. Influenced by traditional Appalachian music as well as contemporary singer-songwriters, the Honey Dewdrops blend old styles with new, creating music that is powerful and heartfelt.

If the Sun Will Shine, their debut record, was released in 2009 to critical acclaim and was #2 for two consecutive months on Folk DJ Radio in 2010. Recorded live and mixed in a 1920's barn, the record is meant to pay homage to their live performances - full of the same energy and emotion the Honey Dewdrops bring to the stage. The album is a collection of songs that Laura and Kagey have written over the past two years, capturing "something haunting, melancholic and all-together charming" (Jeff Royer, Fly Magazine).

Their highly anticipated second album, "These Old Roots," set for release this August, is also a tribute to the way music was recorded before overdubs and tracking. “We wanted that sound and feeling to come through in each of the songs here. For this session, the microphones were set up, we gathered around them and played each song, and then we picked the take that sounded the best. We’ve tried as much as possible to leave it at that,” says the duo from Charlottesville, Virginia. “The songs in this collection encompass so much of what we love about traditional southern mountain music- the earthy singing, the haunting guitar melody, the message the song delivers. We’re drawn in. We hope that you are drawn too.”

The Dewdrops are "A Prairie Home Companion"'s 2008 talent show winners and were finalists in the 2009 Mountain Stage NewSong competition.

This is what folks are saying about the Honey Dewdrops:

“When you listen to the Honey Dewdrops, you can't just listen to one song - you just want more, more, more. Their gentle spirits come with powerful voices while the instruments have voices of their own. This is fresh, homegrown music but deeply rooted in tradition and most importantly it is really good!"
- Anne & Pete Sibley

“I have admired the work of the Honey Dewdrops from the first notes I heard. They capture what is best of old time Appalachian music including the tight harmonies and beautiful melancholy tunes.”
- Anne Williams, host of WNRN’s "Acoustic Sunrise" in Charlottesville, VA

“The musical equivalent to a couple that finishes each other’s sentences.”
- Shawn Underwood,