The Waifs

Compass Records, 2017

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Folk music is alive and well down under. Little known in the United States, The Waifs is folk music icons in their home country of Australia, having practiced their trade for the past quarter-century.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Donna Simpson, Vikki Thorn, and Josh Cunningham, along with supporting musicians David MacDonald and Ben Franz, gathered at Cunningham’s home and recorded a live, mostly acoustic set of original songs. The result was their new album Ironbark, which is a two-CD, 25 song set.

Thorn, Cunningham, and Simpson have voices that are made for harmonizing together, whether in twos or threes. They also rotate the lead vocals, many times on the same song. They have the capacity to provide dual lead vocals as well, similar to the Everly Brothers style.

They write all their own material, which are story songs in the folk tradition. Instrumentation is kept mostly to a minimum in order to keep the focus on the words and voices. Most of the tracks are elemental, made up by just an acoustic guitar, a double bass, and what is called a percussion junk kit.

Tracks such as “Ironbark,” “Song For Jacqueline,” “Higher Ground,” and “I Won’t Go Down” represent their approach. The stories are reflective and introspective, while the music just washes over you. It is music for the mind and soul rather than for the dance floor.

Ironbark is a folk music in the traditional sense, yet it has a very modern feel, which is sometimes difficult to do when presenting simple songs at their most basic. The Waifs has put together an album of tales that is well-worth exploring.

Rating: B+

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