The title of the latest album from Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish, the Baltimore husband and wife team who perform as The Honey Dewdrops, is appropriate for multiple reasons. Their folk/country/roots music style is a tangled yet beautifully made web of myriad sources and inspirations; the intimately familiar way in which they play off each other instrumentally and vocally is equally intermingled.
Wortman takes the majority of the lead vocals, but Parrish's voice weaves harmony lines that eschew the standard third for a more intuitive approach that's sometimes above, sometimes below the melody. The result is a fuller, richer sound even on deceptively simple tunes such as "Horses," where Parrish's low melody line on the chorus sounds like a harmony line even when it isn't.
Their exquisite technique wouldn't matter much if the songs were not there to support it; four albums into their career, this may be the pair's best batch yet. "Same Old" opens the album with a syncopated, lilting roll call of sameness, familiarity, and a longing for the open road that comes across less as a plea than a manifesto to "hit the road til the road runs out" before it evolves into a relationship metaphor.
That imagery is a constant in the duo's writing, intensely rendered on many different levels. "Hold Love" pictures love as something slipping through hand and heart, and as Wortman sings "Far away, down a dark, hold love," she and Parrish embark on a descending harmonic instrumental interlude that pegs the sense of something falling better than any words might have.
There is something of the ancient tones in The Honey Dewdrops, from the unusual close harmonies to the vaguely Celtic instrumental tendencies, but they filter it through a hundred years of American roots music, from The Carter Family to Alison Krauss and points in between. It may be tangled country, but it will reward anyone willing to follow the winding threads to their source.