Georgia State Line – ‘In Colour’ review: emotive country-folk songs

The debut album from Bendigo-born Georgia Delves centres rootless and romantic songwriting with pop sensibilities

Georgia Delves is classically trained, but when you hear her sing on ‘In Colour’, her debut album as Georgia State Line, it sounds like she’s been singing country songs her whole life. In her warm, honeyed voice, the nostalgic comfort of all the country women greats past and present is embodied.

Georgia State Line’s emotive country-folk doesn’t flee from tradition: various songs pair the weeping, metallic slip-slide of steel guitar with twangy banjo and fiddle. There’s a great respect for the sad, lovelorn country song on deliciously bittersweet ‘Dry My Tears’, ‘From Down Here’, and ‘The Losing Game’ especially. The hooky ‘Jackson’ canters right up to the porch and ropes itself there while Delves scuffs her boots up to the bar to pour her heart out to the bartender. Gorgeously layered vocal harmonies emanate hope, buoyant over the fuzzy wail of electric guitar.

Delves and bandmate Patrick Wilson – who is on drums, piano and percussion here – had met while studying music at university in Melbourne in 2014, forming both a romantic and professional relationship. For Delves’ final-year exam performance two years later, they recruited an unofficial band to perform her songs. Their performance under exam conditions was so organic and effortless that the following year, in 2017, they crafted an impressive country-roots EP ‘Heaven Knows’. Several line-up changes later, the band now comprise Tom Brooks on electric and steel pedal guitar, Laura Baxter on bass and backing vocals, and guest Kat Mear on banjo and fiddle.

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The production of ‘In Colour’ – recorded at James Cecil’s Super Melody World in Macedon, Victoria – spotlights the guitar and Delves’ voice. She charms listeners with the catchiness and skilful narrative arc of her lyrics. “I’ve been struggling, I’ve been swimming upstream,” she sings on ‘Lessons’, sounding like a young, Bendigo-born Lucinda Williams. Accompanied simply by acoustic guitar, fiddle and the heel-tap drum beat, Delves revels in the dusty, empty-dancefloor atmosphere.

That same sense of being small, heartbroken and beautiful in a big, savage world filters through the 11 Nashville-meets-Melbourne tracks here, though the spaciousness and mood changes from song to song. That’s likely a consequence of ‘In Colour’ being written on the road: Delves and Wilson moved into a van to tour the East Coast of Australia for nine months at the end of 2018, escaping from their soul-crushing jobs and uncertain futures. In the honesty and authenticity of their music and lyrics, Delves and her band are natural storytellers, rootless and romantic, their songwriting and cohesiveness sharpened by plenty of pre-pandemic live performances.

Ultimately, ‘In Colour’ is a pop album, which is no criticism at all. Delves is unashamed in her love of a melodic pop earworm (see ‘Every Time’ and ‘In Colour’), much like Dolly Parton, who recognised the power in giving people anthems to make their own. Delves was raised on Parton, and later discovered US country-pop singers The Chicks, Erin Rae and Brandi Carlile – who have each, variously, moulded the folk-country-Americana genre to their own metier. ‘In Colour’ is a fresh, Australian take on a time-honoured sound that harks back to the blues-and-rootsy Americana of the ’50s and ’60s.

Details

Georgia State Line In Colour album review 2021
  • Release date: September 24
  • Record label: Cheatin’ Hearts Records
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