For artists, the font of metaphorical inspiration seems to break down something like this: 35 percent the natural world, 30 percent gritty street life, 20 percent historical/mythological figures, 10 percent elegantly prepared meals, and 5 percent miscellaneous. So, upon approaching an album titled Songs for a Hurricane, Kris Delmhorst's latest, which contains songs called "Waiting Under the Waves," "Weathervane," "Hummingbird," and "East of the Mountains," one has every right to be wary.
"We looked at what songs we had to work with on the record," Delmhorst says, "and they all seemed kind of ... weathery. So then at that point, I steered a couple songs in that direction, songs that were kind of looking for a purpose. And those are kind of tried-and-true metaphors, but I guess there's a reason for that. There's a lot to go on." Songs for a Hurricane is a multifaceted thing. Repeated listens reveal surprising nuances, both musical -- the wheeze of bluesy B-3 Hammond, a deep, gospel-tinged vocal refrain -- and emotional. The album is Delmhorst's third, and the mostly country-flavored, down-tempo numbers reveal the true, distilled nature of neo-folk -- pop music in acoustic, intelligent clothing (modest and flattering cuts, natural fibers). She has one of those classic folk voices, breathy but full, cobbled with Joniesque cracks.
Most of the album's songs have to do with dissecting heartbreak from as many angles as Delmhorst has had careers. In her 32 years, she's studied studio art, labored on a remote homestead farm in Maine, worked on sailboats, and led an outdoor education program for kids. But despite her obviously natural bent, she isn't exactly St. Francis of Assisi, or even Julia Butterfly Hill. "I really love squooshing bugs," she admits. "I have a big garden, and I'm looking at it right now. I brought all these plants back home and there's these little bean beetles [on them], and I was just thinking, 'I can't wait to get over there and squoosh those beetles!'"
Kris Delmhorst performs this Friday at the Freight & Salvage, 1111 Addison St., Berkeley, with Jabe Beyer opening. The show starts at 8 p.m. and cover is $16.50 at the door, $15.50 in advance. For more information call 510-548-7603.
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