Label: Big Bean Music
Release Date: September 25 2020
It was a beautiful afternoon in June of 2019, and Kris Delmhorst was sitting in her backyard in western Massachusetts, idly playing guitar and listening to the bluebirds sing. Out of nowhere, the kernel of a new song arrived: an existential pep talk. These had been showing up a lot lately. This one counselled persistence: Keep on pushing and you’ll find a way through, the tagline repeated.
“The fact that I kept unintentionally coming up with songs that said, in one way or another, “Hang in there“ – it revealed to me how much anxiety was lurking beneath the surface of daily life,” says Delmhorst. “Climate change, political turmoil, the endless treadmill of outrage and heartbreak in the news…” The flowers around her may have been in bloom, but there was a darkness bubbling up from somewhere urgent. The songs were no accident – they held up a mirror that allowed her to get at the truth.
“As these songs arrived, they brought words of encouragement I realized I myself needed to hear,” says Delmhorst. “Not in a shallow way, like ‘Everything’s fine.’ They felt like a friend’s voice saying, ’Look, I get it, life gets incredibly dark. And you need to find a way to stay connected to the beautiful parts.’”
Then she realized: that might just be what other people need to hear right now, too.
Long Day in the Milky Way, out September 25, is the result. Delmhorst’s eighth full-length, it finds a gifted lyricist at the height of her craft and working with a strong sense of purpose. World-weary but hopeful, the songwriter responds to a time of global anxiety with a missive straight from the chest.
Recorded in a nearly 300-year-old farmhouse in Maine with a slew of trusted collaborators, it’s an immersive record packed with lush instrumentation – piano, guitar, trumpet, upright and electric bass, harp and violin. At the centre are voices: Delmhorst’s nuanced, emotive vocals at the helm, with supporting harmonies from a trio of singers providing a steadying and amplifying presence throughout.
Delmhorst’s lyrics, meanwhile, find solace in close attention to small moments: a river flooded with snowmelt, lightning reflected on the ocean, bees asleep in a flower. What’s on offer is not an escape from turmoil but a companion for it, a hand reaching through the chaos. Delmhorst invites the listener to look both out and in, to experience the full kaleidoscope of life’s contradictions – persistence, frustration, heartbreak, love – and to locate the grace within the struggle, the beauty in the dark.
You don’t have to believe in anything mystical to feel the molecules around you shift just a little when you listen to Kris Delmhorst. Her songs transmute like breath turning to mist on a cold, clear night; the inner made visible. Her voice holds memories, like smoke lingering in a sweater from last summer’s campfire. Twining through every layer of consciousness, her music weaves together the magical and the mundane with the strange logic of dreams.
Called “bold and brilliant” by the Boston Globe and “transcendent” by the LA Times, Delmhorst is a veteran of the independent Americana world, with vivid songwriting, soulful delivery, and intricate arrangements that stretch the limits of genre. She’s been compared to artists as various as Anaïs Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, and Juana Molina – though she cites Rickie Lee Jones, in all her fearless joy and complexity, as an artistic north star.
01 Wind’s Gonna Find a Way (3:50)
02 Golden Crown (3:16)
03 Hanging Garden (3:50)
04 Secret Girl (2:51)
05 Horses in the Sky (3:29)
06 Skyscraper (3:07)
07 The Horses* (3:35)
08 Flower of Forgiveness (3:35)
09 Nothing ‘Bout Nothing** (3:09)
10 Crow Flies (4:29)
11 Bless Your Little Heart*** (3:31)
12 Call off the Dogs (4:13)
All songs by Kris Delmhorst except
*Rickie Lee Jones & Walter Becker
**Kris Delmhorst & Dave Godowsky
***Kris Delmhorst & Hazel Foucault
Website Kris Delmhorst