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Strange Conversation

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Album Review

Recorded simultaneously with her Shotgun Singer CD but issued prior to that release, the difference here is that Kris Delmhorst takes established writings by the likes of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rumi, e.e. cummings and a variety of other established wordsmiths, finding not only inspiration in their thoughts, but embracing their artistry within her own in much the same way that author Sena Jeter Naslund found motivation for the novel Ahab's Wife in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Walt Whitman probably never envisioned his "A Passage to India" translated into "Light of the Light," a production that might feel a bit out of place on this country/folk disc, but still works within the context because Delmhorst is a confident (and accomplished) musician and visionary who won't let a genre interfere with what she chooses to discuss. It is also the most radio-friendly track and has "hit" written all over it. Strange Conversation sounds like it was influenced by the Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo more than poetry from long ago and contains the Delmhorst stamp to such an extent that unless one is familiar with the source material they'd miss the fact that this is a collaborative effort. Self-produced in North Reading, MA with engineer Chris Rival on the boards, the sound is very consistent with this artist's other releases while stylistically dipping into other bags. The cover art of piles of books against the color green suggests a spoken word disc and hardly indicates that such an exciting palette of sound is contained herein. Both "Invisible Choir" and the final track, "Everything Is Music," are immersed in New Orleans flavors while the ambient folk of "Sea Fever" suggests Enya is the collaborator, not poet John Masefield making a posthumous contribution. And "Since You Went Away" feels in sentiment like it owes more to Buffy Sainte-Marie than James Weldon Johnson, but that's the beauty of this work, the majority of its listeners are probably not going to pick up on the "source" material, as disguised or derived as it may be. Bassist Paul Kochanski is certainly the right choice for the project, his talents as a member of Swinging Steaks finding their way on to the craftsmanship of Alastair Moock, Jonathan Pointer, and Delmhorst labelmates Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem make him one of the key bassists for this new wave of folk/bluegrass/roots rockers emerging on the once very parochial rock & roll scene. The title track, "Strange Conversation," is the appropriate choice for that honor. Delmhorst's sultry vocal on material she conjures up from modernist Hermann Broch's "The Death of Virgil" is pure pop/folk, and most compelling pop/folk at that. Released in between the cultivated Songs for a Hurricane disc and the heady sophistication of Shotgun Singer, the music here is more traditional folk / country with the exception of "Light of the Light," "The Drop & the Dream," and "Water, Water," any of which would have fit perfectly on Shotgun Singer. It's an impressive and ambitious work that is evidence of the sophistication enveloping the Kris Delmhorst catalog and one hopes that these important musings get noticed beyond the cult that realizes something very special is happening here.

Customer Reviews

Nothing short of brilliant

Kris Delmhorst has become one of my favorite performers since I first heard her, live, in 1998 in Cambridge, and her latest collection is nothing short of brilliant. The concept is original-using the poetry we all read in Brit Lit and American Lit as the basis for a series of songs. Most of the songs can be considered modern folk, with overtones of bluegrass and festive jazz. In a few cases she seems to simply set a peom to wonderful music, and in other cases she presents an adaptation or interpretation of a poem. In any case, I urge the listener to look up the original poems, as it adds to the experience. She has a broad vocal range, though she is particularly lovely in the lower end of her range. Most songs also feature Kris harmonizing with herself, to spectacular effect. Anyone familiar with Jeffery Foucault, Erin McKowen, Lori McKenna or Jennifer Kimball has undoubtedly heard Kris on backup vocals and knows of her phenomenal ability to sing close harmony.

Upbeat, Fun, Very Easy to Listen To

I have yet to meet anyone that disliked Kris Delmhorst's music. Even people that don't listen to folk, americana, indy music (whatever you want to call her), immediately are pulled in by her voice. She is one of those artists that just has appeals to any music lover. The first track, "Galuppi Baldessare' sets the tone for me. As soon as I put the CD in, I knew this was an album that I would listen to over and over again. Tracks 1, 9, 10 and 12 are my favorites, but they are all great. Check her out live if you get the chance.


Born: Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s

Singer and songwriter Kris Delmhorst was raised in Brooklyn, NY. She trained in classical cello early on, then used her skills to land work with jazz bands and folk singers in the area. A move to Maine -- and a very long winter -- gave her time to learn to play the fiddle and guitar. In 1996, she relocated to Boston, MA. By this time she had years of experience at performing and was ready to take a step up in the world of music, so she set to work on a demo tape titled Swim for It. In 1998, Delmhorst...
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Strange Conversation, Kris Delmhorst
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