Ironbark by The Waifs
Celebrating 25 years of The Waifs, their latest, Ironbark, is one of their recent best. In fact, it is very difficult to pick a favourite track on this double album.
As a consistent representative of the best of Australia’s blues/roots scene, plus a slew of Aria nominations and wins, The Waifs have come a long way from their humble beginnings and yet their sound has lost none of its characteristic humility. Recorded among the ruins of a kitchen renovation at Josh Cunningham’s house, Ironbark is a carefully produced live/acoustic compilation in two parts: disc one bearing newer works and disc two forming a kind of bonus list of hits re-recorded, updated and thoroughly improved echoing from that new granite bench.
To celebrate the release, the band put together a 25-week campaign, previewing a new track each consecutive week in the lead up to the album’s release. However, they released the tracks out of order, and it is the compilation of this work that makes it such a refreshing musical experience.
From the steady rhythms of the title track, the trio builds arcs of orchestration and harmonies, each song showcasing an instrument by marrying it to the lyrics. For me, the most invigorating pairings were the vocal harmony on ‘I Won’t Go Down’, and the stirring, waltzing percussion of ‘Grand Plans’.
‘Syria’ is a ballad of refugee tribute, running over six minutes, and its lyrical frankness and political urgency could make it the most resonant musing on the album, the enduring hit. It also binds the earthy and spiritual themes of place, displacement, home, and identity that ring true throughout. Like the best of Kasey Chambers (although you can decide on the effectiveness of this comparison) The Waif’s sound, in lieu of a bounty of cultural influences and styles, is quintessentially Australian and Ironbark, as the title suggests, is a robust monument.
Jemima Bucknell is our Online Fulfilment Manager.