By Warren Kurtz
We spoke with Molly Thomas and Rick Hirsch of the Alabama quartet Molly Thomas and The Rare Birds about their new album Honey’s Fury, plus Rick’s years as a guitarist and songwriter in southern rock’s Wet Willie and his work on the album Two the Hard Way by Allman and Woman.
Win this CD, above – see below for details, photo by Cat Sirten.
GOLDMINE:I am enjoying your new album, Honey’s Fury. There is a variety of songs, instruments and a variety of approaches in your voice. Let’s start with your version of Jack Tempchin’s “Tumbleweed,” which I highlighted when we had a giveaway of Jack’s One More Song album in 2017. Your rendition reminds me of ‘70s Linda Rondstadt.
MOLLY THOMAS: That song really spoke to me when we were choosing songs for the album. I met Jack about two years ago when we did a show together. His manager sent me a stack of CDs and suggested this particular song. It was relevant to some things I was going through at the time. Jack likes our version and he was just inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
GM:That is well deserved for Jack. I also have a stack of Jack Tempchin CDs. I am happy to see his songs continue to get recorded by different artists. You are the next in line to The Eagles, Johnny Rivers, and Glenn Frey of great interpreters of Jack’s work. Now, the song on Honey’s Fury that is my favorite is “Laura.” It is so powerful, catchy and something I would love to hear over and over on the radio.
MT: I love hearing what people’s favorite songs are. That is cool that you chose that one. It is a song of encouragement.
RICK HIRSCH: That one kind of reminds me of Lesley Gore or The Ronettes in the era that I grew up on.
GM:The next song on the album, “I’ll Meet You Anywhere,” is a bit more folky. There is a ‘60s trio, The Pozo-Seco Singers, with a song called “Time” that I think of when listening to your song, which is gentle and enjoyable.
RH: I had hammered out those chord changes for a while. That song was inspired by trying to take an approach on guitar like Little Feat’s Lowell George and then I took a bunch of poetry and prose that I had written on the side, not specifically for that tune, and Molly extracted parts of all those writings and put it together for this song, and then the band worked it up. You are right. It is different from the other songs on the album. I appreciate you tuning in to that tune.
GM:In 2017, The Cranberries released the album Something Else of old and new songs augmented by an Irish string section. With “Sharona” Molly, that is what I think of with your voice and violin, it reminds me of one of my favorite newer albums.
RH: That is one of Molly’s signature songs. People really respond to that song when we do it live.
MT: With me being a string player, it seemed to me that this song lent itself to strings. I wrote that several years ago with my friend Amelia White when I was living in Nashville, about a person that I had met and musically it has changed a lot throughout the years. The melody has always been the same, but it seems it has grown a lot.
GM:Ah. Amelia has a new album, too, called Rhythm of the Rain, which I have just begun listening to and am enjoying. There are a variety of female singers that I enjoy. A few years ago, after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and her family, Susan Cowsill released the album Lighthouse that had some pretty raw emotion. Susan told me that she tried to take sadness and make something good out of it creatively. That is what I hear in your voice on “Tear it Down,” with raw emotion that is so believable.
MT: That is quite a comparison. Thank you. I appreciate that. I like Susan’s music. It is interesting that you mention Hurricane Katrina, because the song “Sharona” is about a woman who came to Nashville after having to flee New Orleans after Katrina. The subject in “Tear it Down” is someone everybody knows or meets on the street who is down on their luck due to various circumstances, so it is hard to sing it without emotion. There is a particular person that I wrote the song about that I came in contact with in Nashville when I lived there. He was a homeless guy who had his wits and charm about him but was still suffering.
GM:Speaking of suffering, there is your song “Thank You,” which is one I played for our daughter Brianna recently, who says she loves how you bring strength to this song and she loves your voice too. Your honest storytelling takes me back to Bobbie Gentry and your violin is wonderful. It was brave of you to include this song and I am happy that you did because it is one of my favorites.
MT: Thank you and thanks for sharing my music with your daughter. My hopes when I share my music is that people can identify with it and not feel alone.
GM:Going back to my earlier Linda Ronstadt reference, I think about when her version of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” was released. It started softly, and I thought, well, that is nice, that is sweet. Then her big voice kicked in with tremendous power. That is what I hear from you in “Stay Stay.”
MT: Wow. Wow! Thank you. As a writer I try to go out of my way to try to make things sound different. Thank you for noticing.
GM:Rick, I want to go back 45 years ago to a 45 that I heard and bought in suburban Cleveland and my wife Donna and I just heard again last month on SiriusXM’s 70s on 7 playing American Top 40 with Casey Kasem, looking back to 1974, with Wet Willie’s “Keep on Smilin’.” Growing up in Cleveland and hearing this song about the country, choices and optimism was just what I needed being sixteen as a new driver with a car radio. I totally embraced what you wrote and just loved it.
RH: Wow. Thank you so much. That was a big one. I didn’t see it coming. It turned out well for Wet Willie and put us on the map. We had just been exposed to Bob Marley and The Wailers at Max’s Kansas City club in New York City, so I was all about reggae at that point, and that is what inspired the groove for that song.
GM:The next 45 was “Country Side of Life.” I really enjoy the female background singers, The Williettes on this 1974 record. I was eagerly waiting for a follow up single after “Keep on Smilin’,” and when I heard “Country Side of Life,” I was so pleased.
RH: Thank you. That is so cool to hear. The background vocals on that one were mainly provided by Donna Hall and the late Ella Avery. I offered the song a couple of different ways and Tom Dowd, our producer, chose the funky way. It is one of those songs, as a writer, that just erupts. I probably wrote it in under thirty minutes. It just spilled out. It was just there, low hanging fruit for the plucking.
GM:In 1977, when Two the Hard Way came out by Allman and Woman on Warner Brothers, Donna and I, and so many others were listening to another Warner Brothers album over and over, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. We overlooked this Allman and Woman album and missed songs like “Can You Fool,” “We’re Gonna Make It” and “Shadow Dream Song.” I think these are wonderful.
RH: I think so too. That Warner Brothers album is the first one that I worked on when I moved to Los Angeles, where there was a completely different mindset than what I had experienced with Capricorn albums in the south. Cher picked most of the tunes. I am sure Gregg had some input too. These were top shelf songwriter songs. “Do What You Gotta Do,” which was written by Jimmy Webb that Bobby Vee had previously recorded, was a challenging song for the rhythm section to get through, where with “Can You Fool,” we got through it quickly. There are some beautiful tunes on that album.
GM:I certainly appreciate what you have done over the years with Wet Willie, Gregg and Cher and others, and now The Rare Birds with Molly, John and John.
RH: John and John are the bookends.
MT: They are our foundation. John Milham, on drums, authors a lot of creative ideas and keeps everybody in check. John Kueler is a very quiet, soulful guy. He’ll speak his opinion but will keep it to a minimum. His vocals are incredible and fortunately our vocals compliment each other. When I play a solo show, I am definitely missing his harmonies. He fits right in like a glove and he is a great bass player too. Thank you so much. We really appreciate this interview article and the giveaway to share our music with Goldmine readers.
RH: I am so elated that you got into the Honey’s Fury album. I think it really is a valid body of work. We worked hard on it and I think it shows. Thank you for a great interview.
To win the Honey’s Fury CD by Molly Thomas and The Rare Birds, all you have to do is put your email and mailing addresses in the boxes below by September 15, 11:59 p.m. You will immediately be entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive our informative eNewsletter from Goldmine (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. We have been supplied with two CDs by Molly Thomas and The Rare Birds to give away, so your chances are doubled.