Americana quartet Runaway Dorothy counts Roseanne Cash, Adam Duritz, Rob Thomas, and Ryan Adams as fans.
The band has also been fortunate to have an engaged fan base to support its latest album The Wait. Runaway Dorothy’s sensibility is both rustic and refined, mining folk, country, and alt-country with a restraint that ensure the songs flourish and leave ample space for the group’s storyteller lyrics, melancholy vocals, and beautiful harmonies.
The Brooklyn-based four-piece’s origins date back to when band founder and songwriter Dave Parnell was plucked from singer-songwriter obscurity to be the guitarist of a promising rock band playing big shows and showcasing for major labels. “I was hesitant at first, I wanted to do my own music, but this opportunity allowed me to just focus on being a musician,” he explains. As industry pressures sapped the South Carolina band’s morale, Dave kept on writing for himself. However, when the band was summoned to New York City for label a showcase, Dave had a career-shifting moment.
“I ran into Ryan Adams randomly on the street,” Dave recalls. “We hung out all day, and I got the chance to play him some tunes. I played him the band’s music and my own solo stuff. When he heard my tunes, he said: ‘This is the stuff you should be pursuing.’” And when the band finally splintered, that’s exactly what he did. Dave moved to Brooklyn with a handful of songs, recorded the Runaway Dorothy debut The Arc in Springfield, Missouri, and then assembled a band.
The Wait marks the debut of the firm lineup of Dave Parnell (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Dave’s younger brother Brett “Bert” Parnell (electric guitar), Warren “Jiffy” Robbins (bass), and Evan Mitchell (drums). The band plays with dynamic sensitivity: the players patiently let each song’s meticulous arrangement unfold in the centre spotlight, and then contribute motifs to enhance the mood. The band developed its sympathetic chemistry through grinding it out playing live on NYC subway platforms. “It was like boot camp for becoming a cohesive group,” Dave explains. “Can we sound good as a unit when it’s so loud down there?”
The new album is a towering achievement for Runaway Dorothy, and particularly Parnell as a masterful songwriter. Lyrically, The Wait is both personal and mythical. “Half the album is a story I made up, the other half is about a relationship that just wasn’t going to work,” Dave confides.
Runaway Dorothy self-produced The Wait and recorded it at Threshing Floor Studios in North Carolina. The band went for a lean approach with the production treatment, delicately adding only essential flourishes. This was an inspired choice for me. “The songs have to stand on their own with just voice and guitar,” Dave says of his production philosophy.
Currently, the band is further exploring its creative synchronicity by sharing in songwriting for Runaway Dorothy. Parnell is eager to record the third album with this expanded pool of songwriting talent. Reminiscing back on the time leading up to The Wait he says: “You know, I started off singing Counting Crows cover songs at open mic nights. It was so special when Adam Duritz mentioned our band in an interview. It’s just amazing to me all of this that has happened.”
“Sing With Me” is a strong opener on The Wait – instrumentally skeletal with just acoustic guitar strumming and some banjo support, which results in a showcase of the band’s excellent harmonies. “Let The Right One In” is more typical of what follows, an alt country rocker ballad, an inviting guitar hook and a plaintive and believable chorus – ‘Won’t you please don’t fall in love with me”. “Give Me A Reason” continues the beautiful harmonies, a simple but heartfelt song with an inviting melody.
“Background” is a slower, pedal steel inflected tune, while the gracefully sparse track “Hurry” is a standout relationship song, with some curious origins. “The song began as a Japanese bubblegum pop song,” Dave says laughing. “I sent it to my brother and said ‘Do whatever you want with it.’” Brett “Bert” Parnell picked up the banjo and re-imagined the track. It’s a collaboration that speaks to the mutual respect and deep creative connections the brothers share.
“Blue Kentucky Rain” and “Ballad Of A Dead Man” are two of the album’s highlights. The former song is a poignant prayer from a farmer and his plight during a drought – the chorus containing a joyous cleansing belief, but with the threat of significant menace. “Ballad Of A Dead Man” closes the album and will leave you with a chill. Both tracks are hauntingly gorgeous and bare snapshots of gritty Americana, both weaving together a narrative of a man driven to murder to provide for his family. Two of my favourite songs of the year which stand tall against anything the contemporary Americana/alt country worlds can offer up.
Here’s the mesmeric “Blue Kentucky Rain”
A brilliant release – I recommend you check out Runaway Dorothy’s The Wait (Rock Ridge Music) as quickly as you can.
Tour details for the band are here
Thanks to 10and8management