Kris Delmhorst is based out of the Boston folk music scene, but for her seventh record Blood Test she chose a change of scenery by returning to her childhood home of Brooklyn to record it with singer/songwriter Anders Parker as producer.
The decision likely influenced the record as the setting recalls memories of Kris’ earlier days of being “one of seven million faces,” from 92nd St. The song is built on memories as she fondly reminisces about tea, movies, and “singing all the way to Bleecker.”
But beyond that is an album of changing tides, with references to the sea in several songs that provide a more wide-open and often liberating perspective on topics discussed in the songs.
Opening track Blood Test, for example, is a commentary on the increasing dependence we have on technology. “What happened to the night?/It’s full of buzzing and the blazing lights/Trade the darkness for a screen/Lose the moon/and just keep the gleam.”
Likewise, My Ohio – the most touching moment on the record – is Kris’ ode to a friend who has passed on, using imagery of the ocean to help aid the idea that beyond life is something vast and open.
Weather is also a common theme throughout the record as Kris sings about seeing “the red sky warning” in Saw It All, the high winds in Lighthouse, and delivering rain in We Deliver. It’s calming, even though the weather often referred to can be rough and unpredictable, it continuously creates scenes that evoke reflection but does so peacefully and without being intrusive.
The sound of the record offers varying degrees of folk and americana, from the Weepies-sounding indie-rock Bright Green World, to the folk-rock sound reminiscent of early Sarah Harmer (or Weeping Tile even) on Temporary Sun. Saw It All has a bluesy backdrop to it while Blood Test rests on the hinges of 90s singer/songwriter and alternative.
And not since those glory days of singer/songwriters could a chorus like the one in Hushabye hold its own. The song is one of the record’s best written but the chorus cuts it off, leaving it flat, not taking it any further. 18 years ago, it would have sufficed, as the genre was getting too comfortable, but today it feels incomplete.
In some ways, that level of comfort is echoed on the record. But rather than implying that the comfort at play here signifies a lack of adventure, Blood Test is more about security and reassurance. It’s about recollecting your thoughts, memories and desires and organizing them in a way that brings the greatest amount of peace of mind and satisfaction.
1. Blood Test
3. 92nd St
4. Saw It All
6. We Deliver
7. Little Frame
8. Bright Green World
9. Temporary Sun
11. My Ohio