• Jonathan Widran

DAPHNE PARKER POWELL, The Starter Wife


On her sixth album, but very importantly, her first as Daphne Parker Powell after a decade dba Daphne Lee Martin, the intensely thoughtful, powerfully bold and blunt and brilliantly poetic singer/songwriter artfully shares the deepest recesses of her heart and soul as she takes us through her vulnerable, harrowing journey as The Starter Wife.


Ironically, amidst all the rich imagery, deep introspection and colorful, painful lines and phrases she sings so beautifully and wistfully, it’s the most vulgar line of the whole album that offers the most incisive insight into the sometimes random nature of love, why and how we fall and whether there’s purpose in the pain we experience with its loss.

In the midst of the sweetly lyrical self-examination of “Sentimental Pessimism (Part 1),” after a series of incisively expressed doubts, Daphne lets it fly, daring us to examine our own lives, souls and broken relationships for knowing points of connection: “Maybe it’s the universe taking a piss.” For all the incredible power of her vocals and incendiary heartache on biting tracks like “The Starter’s Wife,” “Enough to Kill” and “Carry My Cage,” and for all the for all the alternately stark and acoustic, edgy and rocking accompaniment stirred up by producer Duane Lundy – a first time collaborator – the pissing universe creating the possibility for great passion, pain and hopefully lessons learned (if, like Daphne, we strive hard and therapeutically enough to find them) are what this euphoric, then often tragic game is all about.


For many obvious reasons, her stark eloquent poetry, tone of voice and unique production aesthetic have earned her favorable comparisons to heyday Joni Mitchell. And just as Mitchell had some of L.A.’s top session gods providing emotional support for her heartfelt musing and social commentary, Daphne has a dazzling and perfectly paired longtime collaborator in Australian arranger, multi-instrumentalist and violinist Kieran Ledwidge. On songs like “Enough To Kill” and “Clear Blue,” his violin feels like much more than an accompanying instrument underscoring and adding divinely inspired heft to her earthbound primal expressions. It’s as if they’re in a hypnotic dance, playing off each other in sweet harmony.


On “Ghosting,” Ledwidge uses his instrument to help her build tension amidst her difficult search for “grace and elegance to hide away my human frailty” from her ex-husband. The singer’s emergence as Daphne Parker Powell will be praised by many on a multitude of creative levels. But the greatest gift it bestows is that it’s truly one of the most cathartic and emotionally and spiritually necessary indie albums of all time.