The Waifs

Sun Dirt Water

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Listening to an earlier Waifs album like 2003's Up All Night, it was easy to detect lots of talent but hard to separate it from other vocal groups that focused on tight, smooth harmony. Like a contemporary version of Peter, Paul & Mary, it was an approach that seemed more likely to attract the uninitiated to folk music than hardened fans who preferred the authenticity of rougher edges. If one gains the impression that the title, Sundirtwater, suggests a new, more basic approach to roots music, then he or she has followed the Waifs' line of thinking. Here, the band has pulled off a neat trick, both beefing up its sound (electric guitar) and keeping things looser (less tight harmony). This nice combination, topped by (mostly) Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn's lead vocals and by (mostly) Josh Cunningham songs, delivers tracks that never lose their soul from being overly polished. Listening to cuts like "Pony" and "Get Me Some," the band sounds as though it's found a natural groove, somewhere between country, folk, and soul. The Waifs, by loosening the reins, have expressed a great deal of confidence in each member's individual abilities on Sundirtwater, and ironically have become a stronger unit for it.

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