Richard Shindell's seventh release, South of Delia, is a throwback to the days when a performer could be labeled "a folksinger" with no embarrassment. Nowadays this term seems almost archaic. Which folks? What exactly IS a folksinger? Richard Shindell makes it all so simple – he distills the concept of "folksinger" to a state of mind rather than a musical genre.
Born in New Jersey, Richard Shindell now lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Considering how uniquely American his music is, perhaps he needs the distance to be able to capture the entire breadth of the American experience. South of Delia surveys this landscape with the affection usually reserved for a long lost lover. The voyage begins with Robbie Robertson's "Arcadian Driftwood" and proceeds on to Bob Dylan's "Senior (Tales of Power)", Harry Robertson's "The Humpback Whale," Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street," A.P. Carter's "The Storms are on the Ocean," Jeffrey Foucault's "Northbound," traditional "Sittin' On Top of the World," traditional "Texas Rangers," Woody Guthrie's "Deportee," Leon Gieco's Solo le Pido a Dios," and ends with Josh Ritter's "Lawrence, KS." There are no originals on South of Delia. This album is all about interpretation. Shindell has the singular musical vision to make even signature tunes from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan his own. He accomplishes this by luxuriating in the essence of the tune, stripping it down to its basic shape and then adding just enough embellishments to make it whole again. Shindell's reading of "Sitting on Top of the World" captures the tune's mournfulness in a way few renditions can. His voice accompanied by nothing more than a single-tracked solo guitar, played in a modal E (the ultimate guitar blues key), Shindell makes ample use of silence to reinforce the fundamental aloneness of the song.
Although the list of players on South of Delia might indicate rather full orchestration, the actual sonic landscape is sparse. These veteran players were chosen as much by what they choose not to play as the notes they do. The core band includes Vicktor Krauss on upright bass, Dennis McDermott on drums and percussion, Larry Campbell on electric guitar and pedal steel, and Radosiav Lorkovic on accordion, keyboards, and harmonium. Lucy Kaplansky, Eliza Gilkyson, Mark Hallman and Leon Gieco add background vocals. By way of a special treat, Richard Thompson, who rarely does any session work, contributes his unique guitar work to two tunes, "The Humpback Whale," and "Texas Rangers."
On South of Delia Richard Shindell proves that if you dig deeply enough into a particular song you can penetrate to its very core. He creates music that feels like it has always been there and always will be there, eternally. This special gift makes him the very essence of a folksinger; a performer who puts the music and its message ahead of his own ego, and in doing so creates art.