Brooding in the reflections of a relationship gone awry, the Danberrys’ “Undertow” sees lead singer Dorothy Daniel take the reins with a fiery vocal performance that makes it a standout song. Her booming vocals hold the arrangement together, surrounded by a swirl of Americana instrumentation that serves to paint a thunderous picture. Alongside vigorous guitar tones courtesy of Ben DeBerry, the duo smoothly slip into a bluesy folk-rock jam akin to the likes of Shovels & Rope or the Old 97s.
The tune comes from the Danberrys’ latest album, Shine. It’s the first time in their career that they’ve co-written every song together. With assistance from producer Marco Giovino (Patty Griffin, Band of Joy) and executive producer Brian Brinkerhoff, the album is chockful of the roots swagger.
Daniel tells PopMatters, “‘Undertow’ was written at that moment when the rose-colored glasses sort of fall off your face and you’re confronted with the fact that someone you’ve adored and trusted explicitly is actually quite rotten on the inside. That moment the spell is broken, and you realize you’ve been in the snake pit entangled with a narcissist. The lyrics allude to the almost magically magnetic quality of master manipulators, with their ability to seamlessly pull strings and destroy hearts while lacking utterly in self-awareness. Most of the songs on this album are about hope, making it through hard times, keeping the light on. But this one is just a pure expression of shock and anger at being played the fool.”
DeBerry says, “This is one of the few songs on the album where Dorothy’s lead vocals were recorded in East Nashville at Doug Lancio’s studio. Doug is a heavy-hitting guitar player and producer, and having his energy and input on this album was a true gift. The music for the song was recorded right outside of Boston at Marco Giovino’s studio (Marco is also a co-producer). We finished the album in three long, packed days, and this song was one of the last we recorded. We had just come off a New Zealand tour where Dorothy had developed a bad chest infection, so her voice was weak by the end of the third day. She busted out ALL of her essential oils (as one does) and commandeered a humidifier to help aid in the dire situation. At that point, Marco, in his flawless, man’s man Bostonian accent, yelled from the control room, ‘Daaarathy, I can smell tha laven-dah comin outta da mon-i-dahs!” We still chuckle every time we smell lavender.'”