Waifs SunDirtWater

The Waifs are well past ripe for discovery on these shores, given that they’re highly decorated artists in their native Australia. Their progress from a Dylan cover band to their present state is nothing less than remarkable, graduating from folk and acoustic pop — driven largely by the sweet, sisterly harmonies of Vikki Thorn and Donna Simpson — to a more roots-oriented alt-country setting that’s giving them (together with third Waif Josh Cunningham) a more accessible sound. Last year’s release with John Dee Holeman demonstrated their ability to work their laidback magic accompanying a true Piedmont bluesman, whereas this release — their sixth — struts with increased confidence, bordering on swagger. Two tracks leap off the page: "How Many Miles” and "Goodbye,” with an aggressive growl that recalls Lucinda Williams leaning on heavier layers of guitar. Not to be misleading, there’s atypical Waifs variety on parade here, with lighter fare that dips into pop, blues, light jazz and ragtime. Yet with the addition of guests Dan Dugmore (pedal/lap steel) and Reese Wynans (B3, piano), their sound is solid and well fleshed out. The fact that all 13 tracks are band-penned originals speaks to their readiness for a larger stage. This is a tasty find. (Compass)