Grey DeLisle “Driftless Girl”

Hummin' Bird Records, 2024

A contemporary step back in time.

album art for Grey DeLisle Driftless GirlIt is easy to admire creative, artistic, comedic or musical talent, but when one person is gifted with the full range, you must ask yourself, when does this person ever sleep?!
California-born Grey DeLisle has more strings to her bow than an autoharp, which just happens to be one of her many crafts. Having been creative since early childhood and never content to stick with one outlet, DeLisle is a successful actor, comedian, visual artist, autoharpist, singer, and songwriter, and as if that wasn’t enough, at least one of her cartoon or video game voices is likely recognizable to anyone who has ever watched a cartoon or played a video game. Add to that three marriages and children; it is no wonder she has a wealth of experience to draw on for her songs.

Driftless Girl‘ is DeLisle’s latest in a string of albums that date back as far as 2000. It is hot on the heels of her 2023 critically acclaimed first album of original songs, ‘She’s An Angel‘, and is reminiscent of her journey so far. However, with graphic songs such as ‘The Ballad of Ella Mae‘, with its Bluegrass twang and moving drawl about domestic violence and murder, it would appear not to be entirely autobiographical.

DeLisle has a strong vocal and a sensitive country vibe. In the opening song, ‘Where You’re Coming From‘, written by Jolie Holland and Buck Meek, her vocal shimmers in this gentle, stripped-back musical ballad as a relationship is explored. Meanwhile, ‘My Two Feet‘ by ex-husband Murray Hammond has a forthright, strident vibe and exotic, dream-like harmonies.
The title song, DeLisle’s own ‘Driftless Girl‘, with its tender harmonies (Nikki Grossman) and rugged strings, is a romantic but compelling depiction of a spirited young woman. “… She don’t need you / She’s a Driftless girl / She won’t stay blue / She’s a Driftless girl / She’ll row her own canoe / Down the Kickapoo / To find a love that’s true“.

The lively RnB style of ‘Little Ol’ While‘ follows, and with its swing and twang, it sounds like it could have been around forever. Instead, this is another of the many songs written by a prolific DeLisle during the Covid 19 pandemic when the world locked down and all other creative outlets were put on hold: signalling, not least, an end to the long songwriting famine that DeLisle had previously been experiencing.

The aforementioned ‘The Ballad of Ella Mae‘ is next up, and it is a heart-wrenching story. Set to a sparse melody, the tale is striking. Again, it could and should be from bygone days, yet it is a recently penned, thought-provoking, heart-stopping, chilling narrative.

Back to a honky tonk beat with ‘I Don’t Wanna Want You‘, and this, a highlight on the album, is a forlorn, almost feministic affirmation with its simple but profound lyrics: “I don’t wanna want you no more / If you don’t want me / I don’t wanna break down your door / I want the key“.

Although it has something of an unpredictable solo going on in the middle of it, ‘Pretty Jolie‘ is a pretty-sounding tune. ‘Quick Draw‘ goes back to a plucky, honky tonk vibe, followed by the embracing love song that is ‘In The Living Room‘. A sweet song of young family contentment, almost a lullaby, with a gentle honky tonk backing this time and the adorable payoff line “Our love sends us to the moon / Right here in the living room.”

The penultimate song, ‘Mama’s Little Rose‘, is an elegant yet tragic tale of love and loss, driven by banjo and strings and dueted with Jolie Holland. The subject matter prepares us somewhat for the final song, a reworking of the Dolly Parton song ‘Down From Dover‘, which is an impassioned song of love and loss with its poignant lyrics, longing and anticipation in the music, and innocence in the story.

This is a fascinating and bold album—a contemporary step back in time. At times, DeLisle could easily be mistaken for Dolly Parton, with her forthright, raw, country attitude and well-written narrative songs. Maybe covering one of Ms Parton’s songs is a nod to this fact, but either way, DeLisle carves her own well-versed stamp and style, showing her talents know no bounds.


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