CD Review by Tony Smith
In this self-titled album of 11 tracks, Dear Orphans showcased the songwriting talents of Nick Payne and Lyn Taylor.
The pair wrote all the songs except for ‘Black Crow Blues’ by Van Zandt.
They also share the credit for all lead vocals.
Natasha David says in the cover blurb that the group ‘lays bare the bones of human existence’ while connecting with simplicity.
They have an earthy sound which has strong country music influences.
Nick (guitars, vocals, mariachi bass, dobro, ukulele chops, tambourine, cardboard box, harmonica) and Lyn (guitar, vocals, shaker) are joined by Mike Kirkely (pedal steel, mariachi bass, vocals), Luke Woodhouse (keys), Richard Galluzzi (clawhammer banjo), Michael Roberts (mandolin), Mik McCartin (drums), Maurice Llambias (fiddle chops), Ingrid Racz (vocals) and Lindsay Mar (double bass).
Producer, Karl Broadie, also contributed various percussion and electric bass.
The CD was mixed and mastered by Glenn Santry at Heartbeat Studios.
‘Lost Highway’, ‘Once Again’, ‘Comfortability’ and ‘Baby Girl’ all have that country sound in which the pedal steel features and harmonies are typically country style.
For me, ‘Destiny’ is the standout track.
The banjo makes a refreshing change here and Lyn Taylor’s voice is particularly attractive.
She also delivers the lullaby, ‘Baby Girl’, with great feeling.
While ‘Captain Starlight’ has a distinctly cowboy feel, the pedal steel is at its best here. In this song, Nick Payne tells an identifiably Australian story of ‘driving cattle down the Strezlecki, stealing horses with a gun’.
Nick’s voice also carries ‘What Might Have Been’.
The chorus is presented in an interesting fashion, slowly: ‘she … me … we … could have been’.
His dobro is a feature of this track as it is on ‘History’ behind Lyn’s voice.
As Lyn sings ‘Strong Man’, there is some fine acoustic guitar playing.
Indeed, on this track and ‘History’, Lyn’s voice is very true in the lower range.
Nick brings out the harmonica here, if rather too briefly.
‘Stay With Me’ makes a good finale.
As with most of the tracks, this is a country style love song but it leaves the listener feeling upbeat.
Overall, the songwriting is impressive, the voices of Lyn Taylor and Nick Payne are clear and expressive, the arrangements have a nice balance and all of the instrumentalists play very well.
This is an album where you cannot help but be impressed – and infected – by the obvious enjoyment Dear Orphans take in their music.
No doubt the Orphans have moved on since this release, but if the Orphans were wondering about their musical ancestry and trying to find a home, this album suggests that their natural place is in country music.
There is enough variety in the songs however to believe that they would also be comfortable in other styles such as folk and bluegrass.