Southern Alabama’s Molly Thomas & the Rare Birds’ Honey’s Fury is an album 4-years’ in the making — & features 12 diversified swamp pop songs.
Members have been associated with other well-known artists through their careers. Many colorful words have been used to describe their talents. But this LP is driven by Molly Thomas (acoustic guitar, vocals), with Rick Hirsch (guitars), John Kueler (bass guitar, vocals), & John Milham (drums, percussion).
The intro — “The Boatman” – instantly reminds me of the approach of the prog-rock-folk bands Strawbs & Fairport Convention. Molly’s voice sparkles with that Sandy Denny quality of magic, power & classicism. What’s especially impressive: her engaging style. Molly has charm in her tone, drizzled in fiddles with an appealing arrangement.
A tight drum snap on “I Wanna Live,” – again, I defer to Strawbs who employ equal crunching electric guitar tonality. On this track, Molly sounds similar to New Zealand’s fascinating alt-country singer Donna Dean (“Rain Fall on Me,” “What Am I Gonna Do”). Dean songs have been covered by American country artists & one was nominated for a Grammy. Molly performs well in this gear – it’s stimulating music. I need to put Molly beside my Dean collection.
Testing the deep water of country-blues singer Tracy Nelson (Mother Earth) & Bonnie Raitt, Molly issues a nice polished ballad “Tumbleweed” & the moderately paced “Laura,” both are excellent. Production & balance — good.
Moodier yet well-sung is “I’ll Meet You Anywhere.” This has a pleasant fiddle-cello that bellows like old-world Celtic-balladry. A nice pub song — graceful without losing its edge.
Perfectly timed is the fattened notes & interplay of instruments on “Calling My Name.” Ms. Thomas asserts herself & the band supports her well. If today’s rock & roll burns the coal slow this effort is doused with starter fluid. Fiery like The Avett Brothers & The Mumfords. All good.
Violin & acoustic guitar compliment though “Sharona” will summon memories of 1979’s new wave classic by The Knack in name only. This is not that song. This is exceptionally sung with a sturdy melody & lovely lyric. A pensive, beautiful track simmers in “Thank You,” – totally different from previous songs. And — Molly proves her diversified mettle with her “Stay Stay” voice. More refined, sincere & would easily appeal to an audience with the settled folksiness style of Judy Collins & Linda Ronstadt.
Raunchier is — “The Ocean,” – and it grinds. Molly’s aggressive closer is a nice send-off for this LP. It’s an arresting blend of little country fiddles, bluesy detours, crisp snare & howling guitar. This smokes perfectly. It has a variety of scents and a cohesive performance.
Issues? Yeah, some. What’s up with the simplistic cliched song titles? One-word, maybe two? Molly is a songwriter who is creative, & she succeeds. Are these song titles the best representative? Something more compelling would be more appealing. The titles Tumbleweed, Sharona, Tear It Down, All Used Up, Calling My Name, I Wanna Live…all used by other writers many, many times.
I can be forgiving on many parts of the circuitry of a work. But when song titles aren’t given much credence, I wonder how serious the song is. “How Long,” (not a song title on this LP) is one of the most used titles in popular music. Why would anyone consider using it? Being simple is fine – just steer clear from what others use ad nauseum.
The title of the LP is quite good – Honey’s Fury, that has creative imagery. But — no song with that name is on this LP.
Nonetheless, this June 7th release – is a collection worth hearing. Quite enjoyable.