You don’t have to spend much time at country and Americana shows in London before you come across Rosie Jones and Zoë Nicol. If they’re not on stage themselves they’re out in the crowd supporting their fellow musicians. Whispers of admiration inevitably follow in their wake; Worry Dolls are well-known and well-loved in this scene. So much so that it’s hard to believe that Go Get Gone is only their first full-length album.
Their knowledge and love of the music shines through. In tenor and tone, Worry Dolls are reminiscent of Nashville-based acoustic duo Jill and Kate. Luscious harmonies and searing songwriting would be enough, but the musical flourishes really light up the record. Whether through Zoë ‘s bluegrass banjo riffs, pedal steel stirs, or the ring of the dobro, each song stands out with country and Americana styling. The album does justice to, and justifies, their live reputation.
In other hands, Endless Road might be a closing song. It speaks of moving on, uncertainty, and coming to terms However, it’s a perfect way to open Go Get Gone as the album centres on journeys, endurance and hope. As they said during their recent Country To Country performance, “it’s one for all the travellers and wanderers out there.” The song, co-written with Jeff Cohen, is also a fitting introduction to the duo’s striking harmonic vocal style.
Train’s Leaving packs in the themes and picks up the pace. The instrumentation layers up towards rumbling syncopation as the lyrics describe both a literal and a metaphorical train; “life’s too short, you gotta take the ride/there’s more to gain than what you stand to lose…this train’s leaving with or without you.” Essentially, there’s time for goodbyes but not for indecision. Get on and get gone.
The opening bars of Miss You Already hint to the song’s origins as an a capella number. The harmonies are sweet and controlled, the instrumentation is subtle. Lyrically, there’s space for nostalgia, regret, even wishful thinking – but not for settling: “I wish you were ready to be by my side…I miss you already/but I’m already gone.”
Don’t Waste Your Heart on Me is another slow tempo number; the subdued vocals and upright bass express the contrition found in the words “you’re the one I want to want but I just can’t.” Simply put, waning love can’t compete with the romance and realities of life on the road.
She Don’t Live Here is an album highlight, and another song that would be a closing track on an album less sure of its thematic basis. Lush vocals are showcased over a simple piano line and reflective lyrics: “It’s easy to forget the bad/And all the things we never had/I guess that there’s no point in looking back.”
Highlight follows highlight as Bless Your Heart kicks in. Using a phrase that Worry Dolls have described as “a very nice way of telling someone that they’re an idiot,” the protagonist speaks to her ex’s naive new girlfriend. It’s no surprise that Baylen Leonard chose to showcase this track on Radio 2 recently; it’s uptempo, clever and catchy. It stands out even before the killer line “he’ll let you in the darkness but you’ll still be in the dark.” Excellent.
Light Oh Light and Passport tie together the earlier themes, each with a subtle but insistent percussive beat from the upright bass, plus tight vocals sharing honest stories of adversity and tenacity: ” I’m not done/I’ve put it all on the line and I’ve bled myself dry/Still hoping.”
The album has much more depth than its 35 minute length and ten tracks would suggest. The final song, Someday Soon, gives a real sense of the breaking dawn described in the lyrics, and rises with a dynamism and warmth that is memorable. Lyrically, reluctance to leave is tempered by an aversion to inertia and the promise of returning in the future. True to form, a sense of motion and continuation lasts through to the final words if the album; “I can hear the bells/They’re ringing out/They’re calling me/It’s time to leave this town.” There’s never any doubt that Worry Dolls have somewhere to go, not just somewhere to leave. They’ll go far.