Although she released Cars, a tribute to her fellow Boston-based artists, in 2011, Blood Test is Kris Delmhorst’s first collection of original material in six years, one which saw her returning to her native Brooklyn to record what she described as an album about moments of clarity.
The set opens with the title track, a restrained, in parts almost spoken questioning of a relationship now it appears that the silence between them is no longer comfortable as she sings ‘tell me are you true, as I am to you’. That, the bluesy We Deliver with its tribal drum rhythm and the 90 second Crow-like twangsome strut Temporary Sun are the most forceful things get, the dominant tempo mid-paced, the overall mood reflective. As such, most of the album is very much late evening listening, Delmhorst slipping into breathily relaxed voice on the melancholic Homeless and sounding soothingly sleepy on Little Frame as Mark Spencer back her up with pedal steel.
Slow doesn’t necessarily mean mellow, however, Saw It All is all brooding blues, Spencer laying down organ and Anders Parker providing glowering, throaty guitar while the mid-tempo pop of Bright Green World conjures the swooping notes of Stevie Nicks and 92nd Street’s tribute to her home town with its references to Bleeker St, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane gradually builds in power.
However, it is the more tender moments where the album truly glows, most particularly on the acoustic, regret-stained Hushabye’s lament for a dead love (“we don’t have to bury it, we just have to sing it to sleep”) and the achingly lovely My Ohio, a eulogy for a departed friend streaked with steel tears. Piano giving way to organ, the album closes with Lighthouse, a return to the ocean imagery of Songs Of Hurricanes, and, with its ambiguous line about ‘looking out for you’, quite possibly a nod to her life as a mother.
A mature, sophisticated album that you grow into and further confirmation of her enduring quality.
Review by: Mike Davies
Homeless (with Anders Parker)
Out Now via Signature Sounds
Order via: Amazon