Tracklist1. Why Is the Night Sad?
2. High Ground
4. The Certain-Something Spring
5. The Garden
8. The Mural
10. The Moon Knows
After several spins of the second solo Orenda Fink project, Ask the Night, I have found only one thing truly wrong with it - it’s too damn short! Half of the acclaimed Azure Ray duo has returned (not that she hasn’t been busy, being part of several releases in the intervening years) with an album flowing with all the rootsy, folksy, and bluesy goodness of the South. But on each album listening, the closing track seems to come around all too soon.
Ask the Night is dominated by acoustic guitar riffs and loose bass lines reminiscent of Conor Oberst’s latest work, but with Fink providing a more refined vocal sound. It is a sound that’s been honed to what could be regarded as perfection since (but not excluding) departing Azure Ray in 2003. Along with her first solo release The Invisible Ones, in 2005, Fink fronted enough bands to make Jack White proud. Art in Manilla and O+S ventured into territory not found on any of Fink’s previous work, but nevertheless gave her the ability to return in 2009 with an album bursting with influence.
Influences of the likes of Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, who lends vocals, and producer Andy LeMaster, have seen Fink instill herself as a force in the world of folk-rock. Meandering and haunting, the opening track of Ask the Night, “Why Is the Night Sad?” walks the listener into the album with such skill you won’t even bother questioning how you got there because your attention will once again focus as the banjo-riddled chorus of “High Ground” pronounces, “There’s a rain coming down to the valley below / and I know just how they feel / cause when the water rises / they start to look for higher ground / just like me / when you come around”. From here you will follow to “The Certain-Something Spring” which claims the title-chorus, “Stop and ask the night / what it stole from you / and can it be returned?” Several tracks pay such homage to Fink’s southern roots and longings of home that the words, “Sweet home / Alabama,” actually occur in acoustic balladry.
Whether you’re enjoying Ask the Night as a listener entirely new to the work of Orenda Fink, or as someone who’s been highly anticipating this release and are perfectly versed in her back catalogue, her solo project will not disappoint. From the lyrical inspirations of southern-gothic literature to the influence of some of folk music's greatest and the capturing rhythms that only the combination of stand-up bass and banjo can provide, there is a deeper sense of appreciation present on this album, leaving you to be overcome by in Ask the Night. That is, until it finishes all too soon.