There are moments when scouring the internet for new music that can just stop me in my tracks. I had one of those moments with Della Ray, a wonderfully simplistic indie folk act that captures everything right and beautiful about the indie music world. Della Ray is made up of Adam and Natalie Morrow, who make incredible music together. These are songs that sing to the heart, they speak to my core, and they soothe me in the process. This is not your average debut album.
The opener “Numb” is essentially a love song, begging the listener to “come stay with me.” It highlights wonderful harmonies. The second track “Don’t Leave Me Here” has more of an alt feel to it. The acoustic guitar lays the root over which the tenor male vocal soars. It’s not the polished kind of performance tenor from a music hall – rather it sounds like the alt rock voices that dominate your local college rock station. The voices on this album are most certainly better when singing together. That’s not a knock at all… it just means that they are incredible together. The harmonies on “Don’t Leave Me Here” help to solidify the sincerity of the lyrics.
Perhaps “Shotgun” is not really what one might expect on a folk album. “Leave the gun away from here.” It’s dark. It’s dangerous. But it’s human and that’s why I like it so much. It has a raw, back-woods feeling to it. One can almost taste the moonshine on this one, not because of some cliché banjo sound, but because it has such a raw emotion at its heart. It is about violence and darkness inside. It’s hard to describe the sound other than to say it is alternative and appropriately dark for the rest of the song.
“Whistle” is a bit more of the sound that makes the duo so good. More Johnny and June than anything in contemporary country music, it’s a song about raw emotion and whiskey drinking. It’s about a lover’s quarrel turned violent. It’s not a jukebox jam or a toe tapper, but it’s really good as a reflective track. The following “St. John” is a sweeter track in terms of its instrumentation and harmonic sound, but has an intentionally lo-fi sound to it. It sounds like it could have been recorded in a little country church. Maybe that’s what St. Johns is? In any event, the track probably has the best harmonies on the whole album (which are all good). Natalie’s high harmonies on this track are just stunning. It all works together for an endearing sound. Oh but don’t let the sweeter sound make you think that it’s a happy sound – in fact it’s about darkness (probably depression?) and the inability to go home – not much sweeter than the other fare on the album.
The final track “Illusion” is a bit more upbeat. It has an Appalachian feel to it from the very beginning. Again the vocals seem to have an intimacy to them. The duo have a tendency to write songs that speak directly to the listener. The direct writing style draws the listener into the characters. The chords in the background of this track, a keyboard of some kind, help to fill in the sound. I usually lambast arts for mucking up tracks with too much fill, but this really helps to set the mood. There’s a tangible feeling of
a hard-to-understand partner… someone who is a bit of an illusion. It’s great.
All told this was an unexpectedly good find. I can’t say that it’s the kind of album that will make you feel warm and fuzzy. It’s jarring and stunning and at times tearjerking. It might scare up a few skeletons in your closet, so be warned. But here’s the thing about this album – it is one of the most significantly raw albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a breath of fresh air in an increasingly-overproduced indie music world. Give Della Ray a spin, especially fans of stripped down alt folk music.