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album review: the waifs, temptation

Listening to Temptation is a bit like curling up with a cup of tea and your favourite book. It might not offer much new, but it’s a relaxing, comforting way to while away an afternoon.

Faithfully delivering the rich tapestry of laments, love songs, and odes we’ve come to expect, the Waifs touch on everything from marriage to addiction in their sixth studio release. The result is a touching, familiar album full of rustic charm, folksy warmth and just the right amount of heartache.

One of the real strengths of The Waifs has always been in the fluid, seemingly effortless cohesion between sisters Vikki Thorn and Donna Simpson and guitarist Josh Cunningham, and this is certainly one of Temptation’s strongest assets. The musical, lyrical and vocal collaboration of the three brings a strong sense of family to this album, where each plays their part and takes their turn to share the spotlight, without ever overbearing the others.

From busking at Fremantle markets in the early 1990s, to becoming a huge festival band with more ARIA awards and multi-platinum sales than you could count, the Waifs have travelled a long road together.

But success hasn’t changed their humble, folksy ethos. And despite now living separate lives in different cities, the three old friends have come together (joined once again by drummer David Ross Macdonald and bassist Ben Franz) to record a new installment of the same dependable, country folk-rock and strong, jazz-influenced melodies that have made endeared so many fans to them over the years.

Temptation was recorded in just ten days in the basement of a ramshackle old house-cum-studio in Minneapolis (apparently- which just about perfectly complements the homespun charm of the whole thing) The much-anticipated follow-up to 2006’s acclaimed Sun, Dirt, Water, it brings together warmly woven instrumentation, personable vocals and rich harmonies in a collection that is vaguely melancholy and always heartfelt.

The Waifs wear their hearts on their sleeves, and tracks like Thorn’s “Somedays”, which delves into the uncomfortable tension between domestic happiness and that inner yearning for freedom (“Some days I just want to ditch my responsibilities/leave behind dirty dishes/dirty floors”), and Simspon’s catchy, soaring love-song-with-a-difference “Falling” (“I’ve been in love once before/ I know the drill, I know the score/ I’m willing to sit this out with you”) strip back all pretensions, leaving a naked honesty.

Then there’s the gentle and lovely “Buffalo” which just meanders along prettily, and “Drifting Dreamer”, which takes you to lilting heights. Every track is well constructed and pleasant to listen to, keeping the momentum going with rarely a slack moment.

Whether you’re new to the Waifs or you’ve been with them from the start, Temptation is sure to satisfy, bringing at the very least a sense of comfort and warmth.

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