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The Waifs


Country of origin:

Australia

Type of music generally:

Contemporary folk, folk/rock

Status:

Most recent release, Beautiful You (2015)

See also:

The Waifs Official Webpage

Comparisons:

Weddings Parties Anything

Covers/own material:

All recorded material is original, however they do also perform some covers in concert.

General comments:

Proudly independent, the Waifs are without a doubt one of the finest folk bands in Australia at the moment. Personally, I think they're also one of the best in the world. The band consists of three people—sisters Vikki and Donna Simpson, who both sing, play guitar and harmonica, and write songs; and Josh Cunningham, who writes songs and plays lead guitar. It's a wonderful combination. Donna and Vikki produce some very special harmonies and Josh is one of the best guitar players I have ever seen. All three band members are excellent songwriters, with songs covering a wide range of subjects from matters of the heart to social commentary. Always, though, the songs centre on people and the relationships between them. The Waifs also a great live band who are rapidly earning an enthusiastic following all over the country. It's easy to see why they have become one of Australia's favourite contemporary folk bands in the past couple of years. (Sherlyn.Koo)

My favourite Local Record Award goes to the Waifs, for "Shelter Me". They are also my favourite new local act of this year. (afries@zip.com.au)

The Waifs are a great Australian band—especially live. They have great harmonies and good song-writing—their albums usually have a few catchy songs but aren't as solid as their live shows—their live shows just seem to capture their energy better. (jjhanson@att.net)

The waifs rock. Their cd sink or swim is lovely and funny. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

Comments about live performance:

Although both Waifs albums are excellent, nothing really compares to seeing the band play live. Onstage they have an energy that is both charming and electrifying. Donna and Vikki are both enormously entertaining, and to watch Josh play guitar solos is a revelation. It's obvious they all love playing and that they're having a great amount of fun. Not only that, but they're fantastic musicians as well. It's a great thing. Fun, energy and enormous amounts of talent—I dare anybody to go to a Waifs gig and not come out smiling. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Andrew's been praising the Waifs for a few years, which is why I already had two of their discs, so I was really eager to see them. They didn't disappoint either. They played several sets of killer pop songs, alternating between the different lead singers. (2/01, neal)

Recommended first album:

Shelter Me

Recordings:


The Waifs

Release info:

1996—The Waifs (PO Box 5062 Albany WA Australia 6332)

Availability:

Available via mail order, at shows, or at some record stores in Australia

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Josh Cunningham—guitar, mandola
Donna Simpson—vocals, guitar, percussion
Vikki Simpson—vocals, guitar, harmonica, tin whistle

Guest artists:

Jen Anderson—violin, mandolin
Mark Aspland—percussion
Archie Cuthbertson—percussion

Produced by:

Michael Thomas, Jen Anderson, The Waifs

Comments:

Folky with a touch of blues thrown in, the Waifs' debut album does a good job of translating the band's live energy into a studio setting. Produced by the band with Michael Thomas and Jen Anderson of Weddings Parties Anything, this album contains such Waifs standards as "Gillian", Josh's homage to his mother; the harmonica-driven "Crazy Train" and the swinging (no pun intended) "Billy Jones". An excellent introduction to the world of The Waifs—definitely recommended for fans of contemporary folk music. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Shelter Me

Release info:

1998—The Waifs (PO Box 5062 Albany WA Australia 6332)

Availability:

Available via mail order, at shows, or at some record stores in Australia

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Josh Cunningham—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin
Donna Simpson—vocals, guitar, percussion
Vikki Simpson—vocals, guitar, harmonica

Guest artists:

Jeff Algra—drums, percussion
Jen Anderson (Weddings Parties Anything)—violin, viola
Ashley Davies—drums
Chris Dickie—percussion
Andrew Entsch—double bass

Produced by:

The Waifs

Comments:

As good as The Waifs' debut album was, I think their second is far better. A small part of this is that the sound is much more cleanly recorded than on the first album, giving a more "polished" effect. The larger part of it is the fact that the band's songwriting just seems to get better and better—there isn't a weak track on this album. However, several tracks do stand out especially, including Josh's songs "Heart Lies", "Shelter Me" and "Lest We Forget"—the last a song about his grandfather's loss of his wife, the other two about going back to where your heart lives, which is a common Waifs theme. Other standout tracks are Vikki's "People Who Think They Can" and "Spotlight", another song about maturity and growing up. All in all, this album is one of the best of last year—a must for contemporary folk fans. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Up All Night

Release info:

2003—Jarrah

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Joshua Cunningham—guitars, vocals, mandolin, ukulele, dobro
Vikki Simpson—vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar
Donna Simpson—vocals, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Ben Franz—electric, double bass, dobro (12)
David Macdonald—drums, percussion
Bruce Haymes—Wurlitzer (3)

Comments:

My favorite of their studio albums. Just good, solid folk rock (and a touch of blues) all the way through. (JoAnn Whetsell)

A Brief History

Release info:

2005—Jarrah Records—7 4394 2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Josh Cunningham—vocals, guitar
Donna Simpson—vocals, guitar
Vikki Simpson—vocals, guitar, harmonica
David Ross MacDonald—drums

Guest artists:

Jen Anderson—violin
Ben Gibbons—bass

Produced by:

The Waifs

Comments:

This is my first Waifs album, but surely not my last. A Brief History is a rollicking good time, with songs that span the entire folk-country spectrum, including Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson covers. The band knows how to mix things up, using audience sing-alongs, harmonica, and alternating lead vocalists to add variety. Both discs are energetic and fun, although some of the best tracks are slower songs like "Gillian" and "Spotlight." My favorite song is "Bridal Train," which beautifully tells the story of the Simpson sisters' grandmother who traveled across Australia on a train carrying war brides to a ship that would take them to their husbands in America. It appears on both discs in live and studio versions. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Sundirtwater

Release info:

2007 (2008, U.S.)—Three Little Fish/Compass Records—7 4472 2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Joshua Cunningham—vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, ukulele
Donna Simpson—vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
Vikki Thorn—vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Ben Franz—electric & double bass
David Ross MacDonald—drums & percussion
Reese Wynans—Hammond B3, piano, wurlitzer
Dan Dugmore—pedal steel, lap steel
Jeff Coffin—clarinet
Scat Springs—background vocals (2, 9)
Erick Jaskowiak—background vocals (8)
Garry West—hand claps (2, 11)

Produced by:

The Waifs & Garry West

Comments:

The Waifs' latest album is steeped in African American music traditions—blues, gospel, jazz, soul. These influences combine with country and their brand of folk/rock for an interesting sound that works really well. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Live From the Union of Soul

Release info:

2009—Three Little Fish/Compass Records—7 4513 2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Donna Simpson—vocals, guitar
Joshua Cunningham—vocals, ukulele, guitar
Vikki Thorn—vocals, guitar, harmonica

Guest artists:

Ben Franz—electric and double bass
David MacDonald—drums and percussion
Mikel Azpiroz—keyboards
John Butler—backing vocals on "From Little Things"
Clare Bowditch—backing vocals on "I Remember You"

Produced by:

The Waifs

Comments:

Another great live album, and quite different in style and content from its predecessor A Brief History. This album is more laidback, more acoustic. Fully half the songs come from Sundirtwater (their most recent studio album at the time), while three (including two covers) don't appear elsewhere.
     I love the banter, the Patsy Cline influence on "Rescue," the collaboration with John Butler, and I think most of the Sundirtwater songs are better here than on that album. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Temptation

Release info:

2011—Jarrah

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Donna Simpson—vocals, acoustic guitar
Josh Cunningham—vocals, guitars, banjo, ukulele, toy piano, organ
Vikki Thorn—vocals, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, piano (9)

Guest artists:

David Ross Macdonald—drums and percussion, additional acoustic guitar (11)
Ben Franz—electric and upright bass
Erik Koskinen—additional electric and slide guitar (3-5)

Comments:

Less blues and rock and overall mellower than Sundirtwater. I like it a lot. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

For mailing list information contact: The Waifs, PO Box 5062, Albany, Western Australia, Australia 6332 or email thewaifs@thewaifs.com.


Thanks to Sherlyn Koo and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2016-06-23 14:29:10.
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