Saddle Creek | Orenda Fink | Reviews


Ask The Night

Author: Adam P. Newton
09/30/2009 | | | Album Review
As someone who pretends to be a vaguely creative type person, artists like Jack White, Ryan Adams, and Bill Mallonee perpetually astound me. Yes, I do wish that these gentlemen would stop every once in awhile and do a bit of self-editing before releasing every single song that they write. But primarily, I wonder when these gentlemen ever rest or sleep, mostly because their respective output is of such a consistent frequency and above-average quality that most of us are left gaping in awe that they have that much music bouncing around in their heads.

To this collection of testosterone, I would like to include the indefatigable Orenda Fink. Though many people might not be aware of bands like Azure Ray, Art In Manila, and O+S (all bands she's created and fronted), more people should take note of Ms. Fink's wide, unflagging creative streak, one that would and should shame the vast majority of her male peers. Ask The Night, her second solo album, is a sparse, haunting gospel-inspired country-folk project that stands as a testament to her childhood spent in Birmingham, AL and Athens, GA. Heaps of post-Appalachian bluegrass elements—accordion, mandolin, and banjo—find their way into the mix, and they're thankfully bereft of hipster indie rock affectations.

In terms of song construction, these are very rudimentary songs comprised primarily of Fink singing over an acoustic guitar, but that simplicity is what makes them strong. There's nothing flashy or fancy here, it's just a great voice singing emotive ballads seemingly designed for late-night walks in a garden or along a country trail, whether alone or with that special someone. The songs might be quiet and intimate in tone, but they are more reminiscent of a private, reflective conversation between lovers and/or close friends than whispers from between the sheets.

While selections like "Wind" and "The Mural" are a bit too sleepy and formulaic for my palate, songs like "High Ground," "The Garden," and "Half-Light" ring with a clarity and beauty that find Fink capably following in the footsteps of legends like Emmylou Harris and Julie Miller and confidently standing alongside contemporaries like Neko Case and Jenny Lewis. Ask The Night specializes in conjuring up classic Southern imagery that it both gothic and pastoral without coming across as needlessly sentimental. Count me as someone who is anxious to hear what this tireless songstress creates next.
Ask The Night

Ask The Night

LP / CD / MP3