The Upshot: After a 4-year hiatus which saw each of the trio’s members living apart, in different cities in the U.S., Australia’s The Waifs have reunited around a release that finds them sounding more together as a band than they have in some time.
BY ERIC THOM
It may take longer than usual to warm up to the Waifs’ seventh studio release but, when you do, it hits you hard. That’s largely because the band features not one but three strong singer-songwriters in sisters Vikki Thorn and Donna Simpson, plus Josh Cunningham, each bringing a distinctly different voice to their folk-rock-country mix. Thorn’s bleak opener, “Black Dirt Track” gives way to Simpson’s stark, comparatively forlorn title track, yet it’s Cunningham’s more upbeat country treatment on “Dark Highway” which breathes life into this band reunion, rekindling familiar harmonies while Thorn’s harmonica seals the deal.
A true collaborative effort, things heat up with the hook-laden “Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt” and the gradually propulsive “Come Away,” making the most of sisterly harmony and the pure, undeniable chemistry of this band – which also includes Ben Franz (bass, pedal steel) and David Ross Macdonald (drums, percussion). Cunningham’s “Cracks of Dawn” adds more country muscle, peppered with standout guitar. Yet, if you wanted to get your full money’s worth, skip directly to Thorn’s co-write with Beth Chilcott for “Blindly Believing” and discover some of the tastiest country-pop to emerge from Australia since Ayers had a rock. This is nicely capped off by Simpson’s big-attitude ballad, “Rowena & Wallace,” updating anything James Dean ever did for his generation – with Cunningham turning in more stellar guitar around its strong, uplifting chorus. Likewise, Cunningham’s sturdy “Born To Love” combines the best of the Waifs’ signature vocal strengths with a rollicking groove.
Elsewhere, Thorn’s highly tasty “”February” reveals a muscular rocker of a different order after its gentle instrumental birthing. It also serves to underline that Beautiful You presents a somewhat disparate mix, but one that ultimately features the strengths of three powerful talents under one collective roof – separately and together. The result is a little something for everybody – and a whole lot of good music resulting from their still-spirited, very together-sounding collaboration.
DOWNLOAD: “Blindly Believing,” “Dark Highway,” “Beautiful You”