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Grey Delisle | Iron Flowers (Sugar Hill)
Like its predecessor, last year's 'The Graceful Ghost', a haunting, often spare, old-time styled and themed set, primarily influenced by the US civil war era and its aftermath,  'Iron Flowers' takes a little time to get under you skin. Arguably, given the more eclectic choice of material and more diverse approach, the album could perhaps be assessed as a less cohesive set than 'The Graceful Ghost' but really that's a minor quibble. I'm not entirely convinced by the occasional mock rock squalling that peppers Right Now, however closely followed as it is by Who Made you King, a triumph of minimalist sensuality, such rare missteps are quickly forgiven and forgotten. More stripped down still is God's Got It, given an almost White Stripes-like treatment, the kick drum right up front in the mix hammering home with every beat. Blueheart, her collaboration with The Amazements also conjures the Stripes at their rawest.  
Joint honours for the killer cuts are Joanna, a thrilling slice of musical melodrama, (Don Heffington's percussive embellishments of castanets, maracas and sleigh bells the irresistible icing on the cake), and The Bloody Bucket. Few artists are capable of packing in as much spellbinding theatricality into under four minutes as Delisle and cohorts do here.  
Speaking of which, Grey Delisle has hand-picked some great players to support her here, including multi-instrumentalist Marvin Etzioni, who also produced, Dave Mattacks (Fairport etc), pedal steel supremo Greg Leisz and husband Murray Hammond, moon-lighting from The Old 97's. Delisle herself plays a mean autoharp too, aside from her indisputable vocal talents, (she's one of Hollywood's most in demand cartoon voice actors).  Much of the depth and richness in sound on the album can be attributed to the unusual decision to employ two drummers and two bass players (one stand-up, one electric) almost through-out. It could so easily have been a mess but the results more than speak for themselves.
Superbly packaged with photographs by legendary '70s lensman Mick Rock and augmented with a short documentary feature that's well worth a look, 'Iron Flowers' is a fascinating journey from start to finish.

Geraint Jones
October 2005