The Waifs

Article Published: Apr. 28, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
The Waifs


If there's any constant in life, it's that people change.

Because they involve more than one person, personality is the No. 1 reason bands call it quits. Also problematic for a band are the events that happen in the natural course of life, like starting a family or moving to new city. Any band together for a while has had to navigate through these events.

"Temptation," the sixth album from the Australian folk rockers The Waifs, attests to their ability to do so.

After spending their childhood together listening to Bob Dylan and singing Everly Brothers harmonies, sisters Donna Simpson and Vicki Thorn formed the duo, Colours, and hit the road as soon as they were able. While on tour, they met another young Aussie musician, Josh Cunningham, and formed The Waifs in 1992.

The Waifs released their self-titled debut in 1996 and financed their tours by selling the album and its followup, "Shelter Me," at the shows. The work invested in solidifying their Australian fanbase in the '90s paid off for The Waifs by the time they released their third album, "London Still," in 2002.

Since, The Waifs consistently receive impressive sales numbers and award nominations in Austrialia. The group has also built up a considerable international audience, playing at major folk festivals and opening Bob Dylan's 2003 North American tour.

Following a two-year break, The Waifs released "Temptation" in April 2011. Recorded mostly live to tape over 10 days in Minneapolis, Minn., the album stays true to the organic sound for which The Waifs are known.

"Temptation" is an all-around multifarious affair. With all three members equally contributing vocals and songwriting, there is no shortage of variety. Each of The Waifs has a unique vocal style and their own set of topics they wish to discuss with their audience.

Each song coveys a particular member's story. Vikki Thorn's centers around family life. For Donna Simpson, it's recovery. Josh Cunningham concentrates on his recently renewed Christian faith.
Collectively, The Waifs carry these stories to heights that could not be reached if told individually. Essential to the delivery is The Waifs' vocal harmonies, which is the group's stong suit.

Simpson and Thorn provide most of the vocals. Simpson's darker voice is exceptional at conveying the emotion of "Just Like Me" and "I Learn the Hard Way." Thorn, with a brighter voice, works well with the poppy "Day Dreamer" and the '50s-style "Beautiful Night." Though their voices come from different ends of the vocal spectrum, they are alluringly complementary of each other in "Drifting, Dreaming."

The two gospel-themed songs written by Cunningham are arguably the best songs, vocal-wise, on "Temptation." The title track and "Moses and the Lamb" feature all three members' vocals, with Cunningham leading. Both songs are close to seven minutes long and are powerful enough to reach the most secular of us.

What's most impressive about The Waifs is their solidarity, despite personal and physical distance. Their personal lives vary drastically. All of them have settled in the United States, but are located far away from one another. Cunningham lives in California, Simpson in Utah, and Thorn is in Minnesota. Listening to "Temptation," there is no sense of this distance. Twenty years into their career, The Waifs are as musically close as ever.

The Waifs are online at

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