Kris Delmhorst | Shotgun Singer Music Review

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New England is awash in young musicians challenging the traditional concept of folk music. The genre has become so experimental that it is difficult to come up with anything truly shocking anymore. Kris Delmhorst is pretty far out on the folk spectrum utilizing all of the most modern techniques: unconventional instrumentation, distortion, even some minor sampling. Though her latest full length album Shotgun Singer doesn’t really take the genre anywhere it hasn’t already been (see Patty Larkin’s Watch the Sky), it does something far more notable–it refines it.

Shotgun Singer is, if nothing else, a mature album with a level of craftsmanship not always seen in the indie-folk world. Lyrically, the album offers up some very beautiful verses, though the real joy of this record comes from listening to the sound of the songs and not so much to what they have to say. Delmhorst is skilled at weaving her voice into gorgeous layered harmonies with her piano and backing strings, but her true skill as a songwriter shines through when she suddenly wipes away these pretty elements, leaving her voice stretched out over an ominous percussive beat.

There are a handful of radio-friendly, pop-laden songs on the album, but these are more the aberration than the rule. The defining tone of Shotgun Singer is moody and introspective. Delmhorst peppers the edges of her songs with flashes of dissonance and disturbing, half-heard voice samples that put the listener off their ease. The effect makes her stories of love and loss all the more lifelike–there is always something else there, lurking below the surface.

The album is an absolute triumph for fans of genre-bending folk–as much a child of Beth Gibbons as Joan Baez. It’s a great example of the direction the genre is headed and definitely worth a listen.

Albums available at Signature Sounds.

  • I won a selection of Signature Sound CDs at The Boston Folk Festival last year and was introduced to Kris by her “Songs For A Hurricane”. It too has a selection of vocal styles mixing with the melodies. If I were to pass along two from that album they would be “Hummingbird” and “You’re No Train”. Great imagery and feeling.


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