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I burned my eyes on the moon last night
I was looking for a reason to shine
Reaching out past my second body
Reaching out past my mind
Into the darkness, into the darkness
Into the darkness of what we don’t know
Into the place behind the place we never go
* * * * * * *
THE WILD – the moving, emotionally charged new album from Kris Delmhorst – comes to terms with what Greg Brown memorably called “All this terror and grace.” The stakes rise as we go along. Our babies arrive and disappear into children, friends die or get weird, our parents distill. We lose the path – to our story, our partner, to the muse – and must reckon the way back.
And The Wild, where has it gone?
Kris Delmhorst locates it here, in twelve songs “Of life getting long / And the music of the way things are:” inside as much as outside, vital in both places, whether or not you intend to visit.
The blurred growl of a bottleneck slide is abruptly broken by four sharp floor-tom shots to announce ‘All the Way Around,’ the opening song in which Delmhorst traces the arc of life lost and found in a confiding alto that hovers above ominous washes of pedal steel and electric guitar tremolo, singing, “I burned my eyes on the moon last night / I was looking for a reason to shine.” The hushed, eerie title track locates the ever-beating animal heart just beneath the surface of our well-mannered, modern lives. “Do you remember what you do it for? / When you get done the prize is more / You’re the horse and the cart, the pimp and the whore / Can you even find your way anymore / To The Wild?” From the country-tinged R&B of ‘Color of the Sky’ to the Faces-inflected ‘Rules to Games,’ THE WILD gestures towards genre without ever inhabiting it, moving confidently beyond imitation or nostalgia to deliver a record that sets out its own terms, and fulfills them.
Like the moon rising, THE WILD reveals itself by degrees, slowly baring a remarkable depth of soul. Panoramic sonic landscapes frame elegantly turned, incisive phrases to paint scenes of wonder, discord, and joy. The album shows Delmhorst in the fullness of her powers, with restraint and maturity in equal measure, a songwriter of range and clarity who can imbue the day-to-day struggle of ordinary living with visceral immediacy. Twenty years into a career, thirteen into a marriage, nine years into motherhood, Delmhorst has gained access to new floors in the tower of song. Far up the winding stair from kids writing journal entries about trying out love, she takes aim at the bones of life, our connection to each other and to the world.
The result, while a deeply personal album, looks upon universal human situations with unflinching compassion. “Did you shake like a mountain?” Delmhorst asks, in ‘Temporary Existence,’ “Did you lie like a lamb? Did you cry like a fountain? Fail like a man? If you tell me your story, I’ll tell you my story too.”
Unwilling to choose between a life and a career, Kris Delmhorst has pursued both at once, a winding path that’s put her eclecticism and wanderlust at the forefront of each. Raised in Brooklyn, NY, Delmhorst studied classical cello and the 80’s FM dial before decamping to rural Maine to work as an organic farmer. Laid up with a broken ankle with no electricity in the dead of winter, she taught herself to play fiddle, and later guitar, eventually writing her own songs. The chance decision to play an open mic became the inflection point that would eventually take her across the country and overseas in the course of a critically-lauded, musically versatile career.
Hailed as “Bold and brilliant” by the Boston Globe and “Captivating” by Allmusic, Kris Delmhorst has released six full-length records on respected indie label Signature Sounds, albums that range from intimate and acoustic to rock quartet; from found-sound home recordings to classic poetry refigured and set to music, as well as a variety of EPs and side projects and a sky-larking album of acoustic covers of new-wave masters The Cars. A constant collaborator and consummate musician, Delmhorst has appeared on upward of 75 albums, contributing vocals, cello, fiddle, and bass to the work of artists as various as Anais Mitchell, Lori McKenna, Peter Wolf, Mary Gauthier, and Chris Smither. THE WILD finds her once again in good company, creating and inhabiting the stillness at the center of the storm, illuminating her own humanity, and ours.
Although married since 2004, Delmhorst and her husband, fellow songwriter Jeffrey Foucault (“Contemporary and timeless” - NY Times) have run their careers largely along separate lines, maintaining domestic privacy and raising a daughter while trading home and away. THE WILD represents their first foray into the studio together, with Foucault co-producing and contributing guitars and vocals. The rest of the players weave together multiple threads of the two artists’ careers: drummer Billy Conway (Morphine, Treat Her Right) played on and produced Delmhorst’s early records and has performed with Foucault for the past decade, while bassist Jeremy Moses Curtis (Booker T) began working live and in the studio with Foucault after having known Delmhorst from their early years in the Boston music scene. Pedal steel guitarist Alex McCollough has been the mastering engineer on records for both artists, in addition to playing with Foucault in the band Cold Satellite. The deep and comfortable familiarity of the players is apparent in the patience of the performances, and the companionable silence around which the best music is made. Nothing is pushed, everything revealed.
They say that in show business you get one shot for being young and one for being good. Early chances flower up like fireworks and fade as quickly, and then the long work of craftsmanship begins, separating the dabblers from the disciples. The second shot may never come, but the best find that it doesn’t matter. They go about their work, in The Wild.
"Blood Test is filled with gem after gem. From the title track to the sentimental "My Ohio" to the closer, "Lighthouse," Delmhorst's voice floats sweetly as a mother's lullaby and passionately as an aching lover's lament." No Depression
"These are deeply felt songs held close to the chest, full of dusky memories (“My Ohio,” “Hushabye”) and hope for a bright future (“Lighthouse,” “Bees”). Delmhorst may not be in a race to make records, but she makes each one worth the wait." Boston Globe
"This is what Delmhorst captures better than any songwriter in the game: the duality of emotion, how we are never just one thing in any given moment. The beauty and comfort in despondency, the inherent fear in joy, the unspoken hesitation in acts or proclamations of confidence - Kris Delmhorst's songs manage to cover that difficult terrain, putting the microscope on the complexities of human behavior" The Buzz About
“Warm and immediately accessible … a voice that breathes through the speakers” -All Music
“Beautifully flaunts [a] minimalist artistic approach…among the best tunes Delmhorst has ever recorded…they get better each time you revisit them.” No Depression
“Frequently waltzes through the shadowy realm where light and dark meet…Delmhorst has become a favorite among music fans who like to be challenged as well as entertained.” Music Box Online
“A work of lo-fi beauty… evidence of an artist taking flight” Boston Herald
“A gorgeous, tender, evocative voice and a textured and varied musical palette” -Amazon
“Shotgun Singer is the jaw-dropping song collection that I have always felt Delmhorst was capable of bringing to fruition. My litmus test is, do I really want to hear this record again – for instance, straightaway? This disc assuredly ticks that box.” Folkwax
“A tour de force of singing, writing and production that gains in richness with each repetition.” Performing Songwriter
“This is a remarkable album…as seamless and brave as it is brilliantly creative…don’t let the fact that Virgil and Hermann Broch inspired the title track reduce its deliciously slinky appeal.” Irish Times
"Bold and brilliant… [gives] hot new life to these wise old voices until you’d swear you were listening to heaven’s own hootenanny.” Boston Globe
”We’ve heard many aspirants striving to become ‘the next Norah Jones.’ Most get the cool, ‘come hither’ voice and subtle pop/jazz production down right, then fall short on the essential songs. Seasoned talent Kris Delmhorst has the whole package going on, though…” Philadelphia Daily News
“Alternately moody, euphoric and transcendent, this is the smartest good time you’ll have with a disc all year.” LA Times
”With Strange Conversation, Miss Delmhorst stretches into her stride… few 21st century singers would find the inherent rhythms of Browning’s 1847 ‘A Toccata of Galuppi’s’ so easy to interpret, or Whitman’s loping ‘Passage to India’ so natural as Miss Delmhorst has here.” Washington Times
“The album’s greatest instrument, Delmhorst’s voice, is both powerful and tender, falling somewhere between that of Jolie Holland and Patty Griffin.” American Roots
”Her sweet, sleepy vocals, which sometimes recall Lucinda Williams, keep the album fresh and relaxed, and without the pretense a less experienced songsmith might have brought to the project… the album is an assured model of sophisticated songwriting and heartfelt musicianship.” Boston Globe