Delgirl

Delgirl Review, Christchurch Folk Club, 12 October, 2008

The all-female Dunedin trio, Delgirl, played the Christchurch Folk Club on 12 October 2008 . This was the 29th performance of 29 on their two month New Zealand-wide tour. However, the band sounded far from tired, and radiated the sweet glow of quiet confidence that comes with a huge accomplishment.

On a warm Spring Christchurch evening, the appeal of notable musicianship, gritty songwriting and three melodic voices, enticed a full capacity room of eager listeners away from their homes. This was in spite of the fact that Delgirl had already played two local gigs within the week.

Opening for Delgirl was Craig Smith. Smith offered up a 30-minute set of solid, mostly fun, originals. Craig knows how to please a crowd, and the chatty wordplay of his songs were most notable in “Corporation XYZ” and “The Wonky Donky Song”.

Right off the block, the Delgirl set started with the Deidre Newall penned ‘Made To Measure’, off their CD, ‘two, maybe three days ride.’ Newall, armed with her double bass, Lynn Vare, working the snare drum, and Erin Morton, on acoustic guitar, made an indelible first impression that set the tone for the evening. Their second tune, ‘Promising’ (Newall), was a raggae-inspired piece with the charm of three voluminous and well-blended harmonies,

Erin Morton took centre stage with her original, ‘Sin’, reminiscent of Southern U.S. Gospel, but firmly rooted in Delgirl musical playfulness. Morton told the audience that the night’s set list came together with help of friends and family in attendance. A privy, that seemed to add a unique element to the night.

The next two songs, ‘Sippin’ Blues’ (Newall) and ‘She Cried’ (Vare), were new to most of the audience, as they have yet to be recorded. ‘Sippin Blues, yes a blues tune, was the first of the night for Vare on banjo. Newall’s powerful vocals shining alongside a quality arrangement.

‘She Cried’ opened with the immediate and enthralling three-part harmonies that place Delgirl right alongside international groups like ‘The Be Good Tanyas’ and ‘Tres Chicas’. The mournful song about a dead lover tugged at heartstrings, while simultaneously showcasing beautiful songcrafting.

After ending the first half with ‘Old Fool’ (Vare), it was obvious Delgirl had made some new fans. Their manager, Scott Muir, was busy at the merchandise table handling brisk sales of their CD.

The second half of the show was an ambitious nine song set mixture of old and new tunes. Opening with ‘Because We Touched’ (Morton), one of their most recognizable tunes, easily brought the crowd’s attention back to the music and away from the interlude.

Their only cover of the night, Dolly Parton’s, ‘Little Sparrow’ was next. Cover aside, the song had a distinct ‘Delgirl’ feel with Morton and Vare playing double ukulele and Newall on double bass. Unlike the bluegrass influenced original, this version was wrapped around funky grooves.

Moving back to songs on their current album, ‘Between Earth and Sky’ (Newall) and ‘Ride’ (Vare) saw the subtle and velvety vocal exclamations of Vare and Morton again team with Newall’s soaring vocal power.

A continued treat of the evening, were glimpses of songs yet to be released. ‘Road Rage’ (Morton) was a song so sweet and melodic that its theme was almost the anti-thesis of its topic. Perhaps the tune will get wide radio play in the future, and its lullaby-like qualities will eliminate road rage.

‘Pedro’ (Newall), a song about an Otago bull, was a whimsical tune, with a jazzy sound, highlighted by Newall’s playful bass and lyrics, especially the catch line, “I’m more than just a side of beef.”

More groove followed with, ‘Song For Nick’ (Morton). The versatility of the group again evident with the more Pacific sound of ‘Whaea’ (Vare). The vitality and richness of Vare’s lead vocals and ukulele wrapped around a story of tragedy and family.

The final song of the set, ‘Woof’ (Newall) was introduced by Newall, as a song about “bored dogs in the suburbs, and a love song.” The active, big band quality, quite possibly inspired by listening to the Andrew sisters while in a caffeine daze.

The crowd, still energized by the set, was in no mood to call it quits. Taking the stage for an encore, ‘In A Spin’ (Morton) came to life with lyrics about the ‘blackhole’ after divorce. The tune invoked melodic moments of the B-52’s, fused again with a big band element.

Throughout the night, Delgirl thanked friends and family, management and fans. They also acknowledged Creative New Zealand for the financial support that made the tour possible. If the 29th performance of 29 was any indication of the tour’s success, Creative New Zealand should consider the funds well spent.

-written by Lynette Diaz (FemAcoustica Reviews)

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