Engage Kingsport Performing Arts Series presents an evening with The Honey Dewdrops on Saturday September 13, 2014 at The Renaissance Theatre in Kingsport, TN. 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.
My New Favorites!
My New Favorites is the union of five musicians with radically different musical backgrounds. Two of them are classically trained. Two can’t read a note of music. Individually, they play old time, bluegrass, rock, gospel, jazz and classical. Together they are a fusion of all those styles. Speaking of fusion, check out how piano, organ and clawhammer banjo happily coexist on their track, “Got To Have That Giving On Your Mind.” Or the rock and roll accordion solo on “Go”. Or check out the four part harmonies in “Meet Me In The Water” and “Long White Robe.”
“Playing in My New Favorites means bringing our own musical influences to the group, AND (this is important) being willing to learn from and be influenced by one another. The result is great music. But it’s a style that does not readily fit into any particular genre.
My New Favorites is billed as an Americana band. That’s the closest thing to a “non-label” label that we could come up with. But as one elderly concert attendee asked us one night before we started a show: “Americana? You people play Americana? Why don’t you just play music?”
Right on. Right on, Mr. Concert-goer, whoever you were and wherever you are. Right on that there doesn’t have to be a label, a category, or a genre. Music just IS.
We are songwriters as well as performing musicians. We write about 90% of the music we play. That just seems to work best for us. The songs have become our voice. And we use our voices to share them. Everyone in the band has performed for years, but we all hooked up as My New Favorites in 2011. Since then, things have been busy. We’ve played festivals, concerts and clubs all around the southern mountains. We’re set to release our debut CD at the beginning of 2013.”
Here’s some info on the players in My New Favorites:
Linda Waltner is a classically trained violinist, but doesn’t let that get in the way of being a first-rate fiddler. Right at home with Bach or Bob Dylan, she can also do old-time and Celtic.
Amy Benedict, “the little girl with the great big bass,” is a veteran performer on the old time scene. A lifelong singer and dancer, she brings strong melodies and harmonies to the band’s vocal mix.
Tracy Johnson plays the keyboards and the accordion for us, and does a great job singing. She’s the only one of us to play Carnegie Hall! Her strong musical style helps drive the music forward through every performance.
Engage Kingsport Performing Arts Series
The Engage Kingsport Performing Arts Series is an exciting new approach to Cultural Arts programming in Kingsport. It will result in fresh new musical and theatrical performances at the Renaissance Arts Center Theatre over the next year. Unlike any series Kingsport has seen in the past, The Office of Cultural Arts is bringing their eclectic variety of presentations to the Tri-Cities and as a result we are witnessing the emergence of an exciting new music scene in Kingsport.
The Office of Cultural Arts firmly believes that a small community can support and prosper from cultural expression. “Many artistic/creative individuals in a small town have not had the opportunity or resources to experience the nourishment from some of the nation’s underappreciated musicians willing to share their creations.” —Toby Weisend, music promoter. We believe this project will survive from word of mouth, lack of competition and stellar performances. We support community efforts and energy and believe that this is the forum to make a community thrive. There will be no boundaries in genre selection; national talent will be of utmost importance.
An incredible line up is already set for Kingsport all the way into the fall of 2014 and plans are being set for future programming as well. We are very excited about all the amazing musicians and actors in store.
All Engage Kingsport Performing Arts Series’ events feature reserved seating in the beautiful Renaissance Arts Center Theatre, where there is not a bad seat in the house. The Renaissance Arts Center is conveniently located at 1200 East Center Street in Kingsport Tennessee. Visitors may easily access the facility from I-26, by taking exit 51, Wilcox Drive, and proceeding 3.1 miles to Center Street. At Center Street take a left and the facility is on your right as you top the hill.
For complete descriptions of all Engage Kingsport Performing Arts Series’ events and to purchase tickets visit the City of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts’ website and Events Calendar: www.EngageKingsport.com (there is no extra charge for online ticket purchases) or call (423) 392-8414 or come by room 224 and visit our office.