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The Waifs latest album is the follow-up to 2006's Sun, Dirt, Water, which the band recorded in Nashville and represented a natural progression for the award winning Australian folk/rock group, one on which they expanded and experimented with their sound. This time round Temptation sees Josh Cunningham, and sisters Vikki Thorne and Donna Simpson returning to their roots, stripping back the sound and playing an assortment of acoustic and electric instruments, joined once again by the established rhythm section of drummer David Ross Macdonald and bassist Ben Franz. The album was recorded in November last year at Underwood Studios, a ramshackle old house-cum-studio in Simpson's adopted home city of Minneapolis. Josh, Donna and Vikki have all moved on in their personal lives since those formative years, whether through relationships, having children or relocating to different parts of the world, yet The Waifs' journey continues. That ever-evolving trip, and the bond that has developed between them, is very much central to the emotion, sentiment and spirituality of the 12 songs on Temptation. In 2000, it was their third album Sink Or Swim which raised their profile and with the follow on release of the London Still EP in Australia thisdarra sparked the success of the fourth Waifs album Up All Night (2003) which reached double platinum and was top five of the Australian album charts, the band went on to win four ARIA Awards. This consolidated their reputation as a major international touring act, supporting Bob Dylan as well as performing at festivals such as The Newport Folk Festival, New Orleans Blues Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival & WOMAD.
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The rest of the album, to my ears, consists mainly of flat, turgid songs which sound half-formed and not very well recorded at that. Often the sound is muddy, and the bass annoyingly too loud at times.
The album notes state that the decision to record the album was made at the last minute, and it was recorded in a basement studio over 10 days with a large proportion of 'live' studio takes. I'm afraid that it indeed sounds like a rushed job to me, with the songs not having had chance to be honed into better versions through repeated playing by the band.
This is in complete contrast to their previous superbly recorded album 'Sundirtwater' which built on the solid foundations of 'Sink or Swim' and 'Up All Night' to produce a consistently excellent collection of songs. Admittedly, on Sundirtwater The Waifs had lost some of their distinctive Australian vocal phrasings, and sounded more like an American band,
I know that for years The Waifs have been mainly living in different parts of The States, possibly not touring as much together, and added to Donna Simpson's reported personal issues this probably did not make for an ideal background to the recording of this Temptation album.
It is a shame, because at their best these talented musicians produce superb music ; from their quieter more contemplative songs some of which have dark themes, to their rock sound explored more fully on Sundirtwater, and with other brighter more upbeat numbers sometimes thrown into the mix.
I know many fans of the band may disagree strongly with this review, but l'm sorry to say that except for a couple of tracks this Temptation album did little for me.
On a final positive note, the nature-themed artwork for the cd packaging by Greedy Hen is rather delightful, and it is good to see the lyrics printed rather than presented in an almost illegible hand-written form, as some artists do.
To start with I wasn't sure, compared with A Brief History, it seemed a little flat, but after a couple of plays, I really liked it. It really is very good, some songs have so much to give. For instance, 'somedays' is a really soulful, deep song, 'Buffalo' is both funny and sad.
I am useless at describing songs, but this album is great!
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