Some say corporate giants are eating the independent music scene alive, but Orenda Fink is just going to “put her boat in the water and let the waves take her where they want to go.” Perhaps this calm, cool, and collected-ness is a result of her spiritual awakening in Haiti. On a trip to the developing country, Fink and her husband experienced all things eerie, from peculiar village ceremonies to secret voodoo rites. The imagery and the spookiness stuck, adding unique nuances to Orenda Fink’s already quirky musical style. On Ask The Night, her second full-length solo release, Fink takes a back to basics approach, preferring sparse acoustic guitar and simple, reflective lyrics.
Since joining Saddle Creek Records, Fink has made it her mission to keep things in the family. She has dabbled in many in-house side projects, made scads of new musical friends, and met her adoring husband, Todd Fink nee Baechle of The Faint. From the dream pop of Azure Ray to the indie rock of Art in Manila, Fink has pushed the boundaries of her own musical capabilities and challenged Saddle Creek’s traditional “Omaha sound.” Thankfully, Saddle Creek’s founder, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame, has allowed Fink this innovative freedom.
Ask The Night, a bluegrass-tinged album painted with broad strokes of Fink’s Alabama upbringing, begins quietly. “Why is The Night Sad” is a stripped-down track, highlighting Fink’s earnest vocals and with a haunting acoustic guitar. Fink follows this somber track with “High Ground,” a powerful song with hypnotic harmonies. She sings, “Cause when the water rises, they start to lose their high ground… just like me, when you come around…” invoking heart-wrenching pain in straightforward musical phrases. “Alabama,” another standout track, is Fink’s graceful take on down home country. This ode to “sweet Alabama” echoes country music’s strengths without reflecting its hyperbolic tendencies.
Patience is the only virtue this album requires. Fink’s creative strengths are not always heard at first listen. Her voice needs time to spellbind, bringing the listener into the private thoughts Fink has chosen to share.
Orenda Fink has journeyed far and wide since her youth in Birmingham, Alabama, yet she chooses to return home on this pensive album. Though she may have steered her boat into familiar waters, she is not without treasures from the strange lands of her past. Ask The Night appears to be an homage to the backwoods, yet a deeper listen yields Haitian whispers and Azure Ray dreams.