CD Reviews: Kris Delmhorst, Kathleen Edwards and the Waifs
Updated: Aug 6, 2018
Kris Delmhorst, “Shotgun Singer” The soft beat of a drum machine begins followed by some delicate electric guitar lines and suddenly you’re hooked. “Blue Adeline,” the opener of Kris Delmhorst’s “Shotgun Singer,” is that entrancing. The beat, the guitar and some sparse piano mesmerizes as she sings “Blue Adeline, I can see you lying awake in wonder/I can see you running alive with hunger.” It’s an absolutely beautiful song, and a great start to a fine album.
Kris is playing with a lot of new sounds and with more ethereal lyrics on this effort. We hear some electronic sounds throughout “Heaven Holds the Sun,” a darkly sensual number with a great backing beat.
Listening to the album as a whole, the songs seem to blend together with little space in between, but individually each takes you to a new place, even if you don’t exactly know where that is.
Kris’s voice is so versatile that songs like “To the Wire,’’ an upbeat number, and “Midnight Ringer,’’ a beautiful, quiet tune sound equally intriguing.
Love is a constant theme throughout, which could be inspired by Kris’ “new life” as wife and soon-to-be mother. In “If Not for Love” she repeats the lyrics “If not for love, what are you for?” in a voice run through some kind of effect to give the song a slinky, swampy feel. “1000 Reasons” is as close to a pop song as we get – with handclaps, some fun whistling and electric sounds and a poppy beat that really kicks into a full band sound and even a little calypso-like piano.
The mesmerizing “Freediver” ends the album, and when it’s over, you have to sit in quiet for a moment and reflect on where you’ve been.
Kathleen Edwards, “Asking for Flowers” You know you’re listening to a Canadian singer when she namechecks former hockey player Marty McSorley in the chorus of one of her songs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, Canada has produced a host of fine young singer-songwriting women, including Sarah Harmer, the Wailin’ Jennys, and Dala, among other. And of course Edwards, whose latest release, “Asking for Flowers,” picks up right where her last, the critically acclaimed “Back to Me,” left off. This time, she’s written all the songs herself and it shows in the more personal lyrics. Edwards has made a name writing country-rocking tunes about down-and-outers, and on “Asking for Flowers” you get more of those and more.
The upbeat numbers are the best, including “The Cheapest Key,” which is a sneeringly fun lover’s putdown done. And “I make the Dough, You Get the Glory” the aforementioned song featuring the hockey enforcer, is a great sounding country tune with a chorus that strings together some great lines, including : “You’re cool and cred like Fogerty, I’m Elvis Presley in the ’70’s,” and “You’re The Great One, I’m Marty McSorley/ You’re the Concord, I’m economy/I make the dough, but you get the glory.”
“Oil Man’s War” tackles her anti-war sentiments; “Oh Canada” offers some not-so-proud feelings about goings-on in her home country; and the title track digs into the emotional disillusionment of a relationship, with the line “Asking for flowers is like asking you to be nice.”
What drives all of Edwards’ tunes is her honest, clear voice and the care she has for her song’s subjects. Her backing band – which includes her husband-guitar player Colin Crips, Tom Petty keyboard extraordinaire Benmont Tench and pedal steel ace Greg Leisz, among others – is stellar too, providing solid and rocking accompaniment.
The Waifs, “Sundirtwater” Australian trio the Waifs – who’s last album, the stellar “Up All Night,” was released in 2003 – have been on hiatus while the sisters Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn both had babies. They have returned with the 13-song set “Sundirtwater,” which continues their quest to try out varied musical styles while keeping their rootsy base intact.
The album opens with “Pony,” which immediately shows off an electric guitar-and-harmonica blues. It is followed by Vikki’s slinky title track, which has the sound and feel of Peggy Lee’s “Fever.”
Josh’s electric guitar seems to be more prevalent on this album than in the past, but its more tasty than overpowering, which is nice. On Donna’s “Vermillion” he lays down some beautiful licks that nicely punctuate the tune. The album comes alive with the alt-country-sounding rocker “How Many Miles.”
Stylistically, the album is all over the place. An electric organ heats up “Sad Sailor Song,” while “Get Me Some” is a quiet ballad, and “Eternity” sounds like a jumpy James Taylor tune; “Goodbye” has a more commercial pop sound, and on it goes with each song. “Stay” rocks, “Love Let Me Down” slinks.
In all, “Sundirtwater” is a fun listen but isn’t the cohesive, memorable experience that “Up All Night” was.