Recorded simultaneously with her Shotgun Singer CD but issued prior to that release, the difference here is that Kris Delmhorst takes established writings by the likes of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rumi, e.e. cummings and a variety of other established wordsmiths, finding not only inspiration in their thoughts, but embracing their artistry within her own in much the same way that author Sena Jeter Naslund found motivation for the novel Ahab's Wife in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Walt Whitman probably never envisioned his "A Passage to India" translated into "Light of the Light," a production that might feel a bit out of place on this country/folk disc, but still works within the context because Delmhorst is a confident (and accomplished) musician and visionary who won't let a genre interfere with what she chooses to discuss. It is also the most radio-friendly track and has "hit" written all over it. Strange Conversation sounds like it was influenced by the Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo more than poetry from long ago and contains the Delmhorst stamp to such an extent that unless one is familiar with the source material they'd miss the fact that this is a collaborative effort. Self-produced in North Reading, MA with engineer Chris Rival on the boards, the sound is very consistent with this artist's other releases while stylistically dipping into other bags. The cover art of piles of books against the color green suggests a spoken word disc and hardly indicates that such an exciting palette of sound is contained herein. Both "Invisible Choir" and the final track, "Everything Is Music," are immersed in New Orleans flavors while the ambient folk of "Sea Fever" suggests Enya is the collaborator, not poet John Masefield making a posthumous contribution. And "Since You Went Away" feels in sentiment like it owes more to Buffy Sainte-Marie than James Weldon Johnson, but that's the beauty of this work, the majority of its listeners are probably not going to pick up on the "source" material, as disguised or derived as it may be. Bassist Paul Kochanski is certainly the right choice for the project, his talents as a member of Swinging Steaks finding their way on to the craftsmanship of Alastair Moock, Jonathan Pointer, and Delmhorst labelmates Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem make him one of the key bassists for this new wave of folk/bluegrass/roots rockers emerging on the once very parochial rock & roll scene. The title track, "Strange Conversation," is the appropriate choice for that honor. Delmhorst's sultry vocal on material she conjures up from modernist Hermann Broch's "The Death of Virgil" is pure pop/folk, and most compelling pop/folk at that. Released in between the cultivated Songs for a Hurricane disc and the heady sophistication of Shotgun Singer, the music here is more traditional folk / country with the exception of "Light of the Light," "The Drop & the Dream," and "Water, Water," any of which would have fit perfectly on Shotgun Singer. It's an impressive and ambitious work that is evidence of the sophistication enveloping the Kris Delmhorst catalog and one hopes that these important musings get noticed beyond the cult that realizes something very special is happening here.
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AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione