The Iveys are a bona fide family band, comprising two sisters, two brothers and one brother-in-law. The current five-piece lineup has built from the initial sibling duo of Arlen Ivey and Jessica Ivey Carr and Colors Of Honey, their new six-track release, will serve as their calling card as they embark on a very busy tour of their native Texas in June.
As well as being true to their family history (check out the recent RGM premiere of ‘King and Marie’) Colors Of Honey is also firmly rooted in a sound particular to the American South. You can rightly expect rich, slick harmonies, positive energy and a frankly unhealthy quantity of pedal steel dredged across the songs like icing sugar. However, you’re in for more than just the hats and swagger of a traditional country/Americana sound, as there are traces of contemporary folk-rock acts like First Aid Kit and The Pierces to be uncovered in The Iveys too.
‘You’ve Got Something’ starts small but soon explodes with those thick, massed voices against fizzing slide guitar, charging drums and a judicious sprinkling of honky-tonk piano. The philosophical ‘Whatever Comes’ is more laid-back and focuses more on the dual vocal of Arlen and Jessica. Jessica’s delivery here puts me in mind of Laurie Sargent, with the track sharing some of the feel of Face To Face’s later work.
The piano-led ‘Running Wild’ shows a different side again, with the vocals of Jessica and sister Jenna Ivey this time carrying the song through before title track ‘Colors of Honey’ shows more ambition, building from a quavering Laura Marling-esque opening to a sprawling epic replete with mandolins and yearning strings. Hot on its heels is the aforementioned ‘King and Marie’ which chronicles the life of the siblings’ paternal great-grandparents. The song espouses the emotional openness and storytelling tradition of artists like Nanci Griffith and - like so much of Griffith’s output - is a portrait of life in the American South in the last century.
The solemnity of the closing song ‘The Dream’ recalls the gorgeous unaccompanied harmonies of The Wailin’ Jennys. The resigned piano outro is all too shortlived but long goodbyes, I guess, are always harder to take. The warm quality of the voices and the blending is really on display here and is noticeably naturalistic, with none of the beautiful vibrato ironed out and none of the breaths tidied up in the studio. So, full marks there for keeping it real. If you’re reading this in Texas, you’ll have your pick of shows to attend in the coming weeks. For the rest of us, I’m hoping we won’t have to wait too much longer for The Iveys to creep further afield.
Review by Rich Barnard