Here’s something refreshing: Ellis Delaney is a folk singer like no other, a woman with a mission to communicate love, joy, respect and trust to a world that is ever in need of healing. If that sounds a little sappy, then think again and give the woman a listen, because Ellis sings with a rare degree of open, unaffected honesty that you’d need a heart of stone to resist. This triple cd set offers one disc of new songs and two discs of the two halves of a set recorded at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi Minnesota (her home state). Despite that setting, there doesn't seem to be an overtly Christian aspect to her writing (though it’s certainly in line with the original Christian message) and her open-hearted enthusiasm for life, love and kindness doesn’t make her blind to the rawness of real life, to the problems and confusions that we all encounter.
It is probably best to listen to the studio cd first, so that you engage with her songs before being confronted by the alarmingly goofy volatility of her persona in the between songs rambles on the live cds. I say “alarmingly”, but that’s unfair; it’s just that I’ve never come across anybody who allows themselves such unguarded laughter in public and it takes a little getting used to. It sounds like the audience are old friends/fans because they’re right with her, Ellis’ joyful openness bringing out the joy in them, and that is something great to hear.
This is a bizarre comparison and I might be alone in this but for style the nearest person to Ellis that I can think of is Ani Di Franco; to my ears they share a directness that feels like the shortest possible route has been taken from the idea to the music – no over-thinking and no gloss other than that provided by a true heart and considerable talent. The thing with Ellis is that, for a woman with an earnest mission, she is incredibly funny. The jokes pop into her mind and are delivered before she can reconsider; the unpredictability and openness in that process makes us, the audience, feel more alive – and quite possibly more amused than we would be by the honed routine of a professional comic. Her songs do love, daydreaming, beauty and the humour of everyday life: yoga classes and coffee addiction are ripe subjects for her, just as much as lying under a tree, daydreaming. If ever there was a feel-good folk musician, this is the woman – somebody who really does send you off feeling better about the world.
CD Review: Wherever You Are (2013)