Kris Delmhorst “Long Day In The Milky Way” (Big Bean Music, 2020)

The opening track on Kris Delmhorst’s eighth studio album sets the stall out nice and early in terms of identifying the source of the album title (the very first line) and the running theme of songs, of finding patience and persistence to manage a way through these darkened times. Delmhorst also remembers on the opening track “….saying to the harp player, that when it got to the last chord she should harp the sh*t out of it and that’s exactly what she did, in the best possible way.” Not a musical expression heard every day, that’s for sure.

‘Long Day In The Milky Way’ is a record written for these weird days. Keep up the struggle, persevere, there is light in the darkness, keep moving forward. New England resident Delmhorst’s exceptional lyrical ability shines through these themes, keeping a positive outlook throughout, even when doubts and fear persist. ‘Wind’s Gonna Find A Way’ (song and video reviewed previously on these pages) tells of the importance of patience and of prioritising the important things in life, like how wind can wear down a mountain, find a crack in the door, “keep on pushing and you find a way through.”

Malian artist Afel Boucoum provides the inspiration for ‘Golden Crown’, a song that weaves together beautifully, with electric piano riff opening, strings and strong harmonies, and a typical West African repetitive rhythm. ‘Hanging Garden’ continues the theme of uncertainty and how we should all pay more attention to the beauty of what’s around us today as it may not be around tomorrow, with an interesting horn section diversion leading into the middle section.

More horns in a soulful vibe greet the opening of ‘Secret Girl’, a message to the author’s younger self, her daughter and to young girls in general, that although life can be a confusing journey, we’ve all been there, you are not alone. Soul guitar lead and an almost gospel backing add to the overall sound. Two songs have horses in their titles (Delmhorst… “I know, I know….”), ‘Horses in the Sky’, and a Ricki Lee Jones cover (written with Walter Becker), ‘The Horses’. Delmhorst credits Jones with providing her with inspiration in her musical life, citing “Her work has been a guidepost as far back as I can remember”, and this inspiration is clear. She has a full roundness to her vocal which suits this type of song perfectly. More electric piano and excellent harmonies help to create another soulful sound.

The album finishes strongly with ‘Bless Your Little Heart’ and ‘Call Off The Dogs’. The former has more Jones-influence on display – and was almost co-written with her four-year-old daughter – with a gentle pace and pleasant piano, violin and guitar. The latter is written as a letter to herself, a reminder that it’s OK not to have it all together all of the time; sometimes you have to trust the direction in which you’re being taken. A strong track to end the album.

Not unlike many albums, some songs are stronger than others but Delmhorst is clearly a gifted lyricist. Song construction is interesting, for example where three-line verses appear in places and verses sometimes starting in unexpected places. Delmhorst also produced the album and has managed to capture a soulful quality in parts which works well, as do the layered and textured vocals and use of different sounds, such as the harp. This certainly doesn’t feel like a long day anywhere.

Persistence and perseverance are our watchwords
7/10

Author: Russell Murphy

Can't get enough of this Americana stuff. Live or recorded, it's all good to me....

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