On May 13th, Delmhorst released her seventh album, BLOOD TEST (Signature Sounds) – her first of original music since 2008′s critically acclaimed
album SHOTGUN SINGER. A prolific writer and constant collaborator, Delmhorst continues to share her unique perspective in this new work. The album describes a moment of reckoning and centering in the songwriter’s life, and in society as a whole. In a collection of songs that move between triumph and heartbreak, restlessness and responsibility, Delmhorst acknowledges the weary work of an intentioned life – and the new American dream of presence and perspective in a frenetic time.
BLOOD TEST’s fresh perspective was realized sonically by Delmhorst turning to a totally new collaborator – friend and fellow songwriter Anders Parker (Varnaline, Gob Iron, New Multitudes). Parker brought two band members to Delmhorst: drummer Konrad Meissner (Brandi Carlile, The Silos) and multi-instrumentalist Mark Spencer (Blood Oranges, Lisa Loeb, Laura Cantrell, Son Volt). And together, the four shaped BLOOD TEST’s landscape:
The spareness of the arrangements allows a wide range of dynamics in the songs, from the delicate duet of nylon-string guitar and pedal steel in “My Ohio,” to the glowering Hammond organ and brittle electric guitar of “Saw It All.” “Little Frame” floats the listener on a sonic hammock of easy drums and simple piano riffs, while “Temporary Sun” takes less than a minute and a half for Mark Spencer’s scorched-earth country-rock guitar to lay waste to the place. And Delmhorst is not afraid to take dynamic leaps within a single song, as evidenced by “92nd St,” which travels all the way from a single pulsing note on an acoustic guitar to a churning wall of distortion out of PJ Harvey’s playbook, and all the way back again.
That song, drawn from Delmhorst’s New York upbringing, had particular resonance during the recording, as the sessions were taking place just a few blocks from her childhood home.
“The studio where we made the record, Brooklyn Recording, turned out to be right in my old stomping grounds… I was getting coffee at the deli I used to go to high school, and then walking to the studio. It was a kind of vertigo feeling to be working there, a little dizzying, but also really satisfying; it somehow completed the circle.”
Geography aside, “92nd St” may also contain the thematic heart of the album – with its soaring chorus “There ain’t no real mistakes.”
For all the big questions that BLOOD TEST asks, it offers this conclusion: That everything we have done and seen and been and felt has led to this day. Who we are now. In this moment. That we have arrived. And we are right on time.
The product of a musical family, Delmhorst released her debut album, Appetite, in 1998 and has since recorded and released multiple albums and EPs spanning a range of musical genres— both as a solo artist and as a band member/collaborator. She has recorded vocals, fiddle and cello on over 50 albums from artists such as Peter Wolf, Mary Gauthier, Chris Smither and Lori McKenna, and also records and performs with Jeffrey Foucault and Peter Mulvey as Redbird.