Folk artist and multi-instrumentalist Kris Delmhorst has been making music since the mid-90’s, but began her solo catalogue with 1998’s Appetite. And since then, Delmhorst has released two more albums of original material and collaborated with 2003’s Redbird with fellow songwriters, Jeffrey Foucault and Peter Mulvey. Presently, Delmhorst is preparing the release of her fourth studio album, Strange Conversation on June 27, 2006.
On Strange Conversation, Delmhorst tries something new. The concept was to take some of Delmhorst’s favorite poems and weave them into song. Alterations and edit were made by Delmhorst and some of them are simply just inspired from the original works. Works by such lauded poets as E.E. Cummings, Robert Browning and Walt Whitman make appearances, with each poem given Delmhorst’s musical treatment, allowing them to live on sonically rather than simply on a written page.
The album started out as an idea Delmhorst placed on the backburner while writing new songs for her next album. But after picking up an anthology one day, the songs that eventually made up Strange Conversation began taking shape.
The album opens with ‘Galuppi Baldesarre,’ which is borrowed from Robert Browning’s A Toccatta of Galuppi’s in 1855. Delmhorst writes:
“The poem is itself based on a piece by an 18th century composer of light opera named, awesomely, Baldessare Galuppi. Robert Browning describes himself listening to the piece and seeing Galuppi’s world come to life in his imagination, the masked balls and revelry of Venice in its heyday. Then, in a surprise move, he ends it by dwelling gloomily on the fact that such a vivid, lively society is now dead and gone. But to me it seemed like one of the most perfect examples of art creating some kind of immortality: Browning spend the whole poem describing the way Galuppi managed to bring his Venice back to such palpable life, and that description brought it to life in my 21st century mind as well. So, with apologies to Browning, I restructured the song to have an opposite conclusion from his poem.”
‘Water Water’ is one of the standouts and was one of the first Delmhorst wrote for the collection. Inspired by Robert Herrick‘s Scare-Fire, written originally in 1648, Delmhorst creates a deep, dark, guttural groove with its verses. Delmhorst herself feels the song is very “Zeppiln- or Morphine-ish.” I certainly don’t disagree.
On ‘Everything Is Music,’ Delmhorst stirred together a few poems from Rumi. It’s tone is casual, carefree and beautiful in its sheer simplicity. Very befitting for being the final track on Strange Conversation.
Strange Conversation is a great example of art carrying more than one form, as Delmhorst created twelve remarkable songs based on the writings of people who’ve come before.
Also featured below is an older song of Delmhorst’s: ‘Weatherman,’ which can originally be found on Delmhorst’s 1998 debut album, Appetite.
Kris Delmhorst is currently performing and a few of her upcoming dates can be found below. For more, visit her official site.