Single Shot Tribute Albums: Kris Delmhorst covers The Cars

Brooklyn-born (and now Boston-based) singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Kris Delmhorst first discovered The Cars in the summer of ’84; in both generational outlook and effect, the musical epiphany that followed seems to parallel my own entry into the wonders of music that speaks to heart and body. And though these days, Delmhorst is known for gentler, more literate songwriting and performance in the modern confessional vein, her new release, Cars – now available for “immediate digital delivery” pre-order at Signature Sounds – finds the forty year old new mother and celebrated singer-songwriter looking back to those heady days of her youth, making for an album which provides a strong bridge between the gleeful, heady emotions which first drew us to those songs and the deliberate craftsmanship which has long marked Delmhorst as a patient, careful artist well worth our ongoing celebration.

Taking on the Ric Ocasek canon is a lark, to be sure – and there’s plenty of play afoot here, as you’ll hear from the get-go. But Delmhorst does so with aplomb, offering a fluid mix of deconstructed deep cuts and relatively faithful (and danceable) interpretations of fan favorites. At its best, as with all great folk tributes, the album comes across as a loving offering to the world through exploration of the self in the familiar, a deeply personal project which exposes deeper truths in songs better known for their rhythm and hooks.

As the four tracks currently streaming at Delmhorst’s store indicate, Cars isn’t a perfect album. The songs with the richest genre hybridization can seem anomalous and oddly balanced – listen for how the synth bleeps, the plastic horns, the pennywhistle, and the punk banjo pull back for the verse couplets on Hello Again, as if to compensate for the conflict between layers – and though the production brings it forward, Delmhorst’s breathy, notably delicate alto is still slightly lost against the harder, poppier, almost country drumbeat edge and sharp bluegrassy fiddles of You Might Think, even as the song stands out as an inevitable single.

But that voice serves the vast majority of her song settings well, and the softer, gentler, more transformative tracks exceptionally. Magic, especially, with its subtle mandolins, soft arrangement, and sweet girl harmonies, is both a harbinger and revelation, a mark of what Kris can do at her best. And overall, Cars is a wonderful conceit, a love note to our secret pop hearts, an apt tribute to a generation’s shared adolescence, a summer folkpop masterpiece. You can practically hear Delmhorst’s wide smile throughout.

Make your summer complete. Get Cars here.

Bonus track: Kris Delmhorst and Session Americana cover The Cars’ Drive in a 2006 session.

Category: Compilations & Tribute Albums, Kris Delmhorst, Tribute Albums 9 comments »

9 Responses to “Single Shot Tribute Albums: Kris Delmhorst covers The Cars”

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