The Waifs’ story is familiar: Post-boomer kids, raised on American pop and folk, take their influences into a musical career. It’s the accent that surprises. Although the first few bars of Up All Night’s opener, “Fisherman’s Daughter,” suggest slide guitar and harmonica meeting at some Delta crossroads, vocalist Donna Simpson soon reveals: “I’m just your regular west Australian fisherman’s daughter/I’m a middle class folk singing guitar playin girl.” Unlike fellow young Australian Kasey Chambers, bandmates Simpson, her sister Vikki, and Josh Cunningham never give the impression that they’re trying to fool you into thinking they’ve got Mississippi driver’s licenses. Already a success back home and subject of much buzz in the American roots-music press, the Waifs have a lot to prove—and Up All Night shows they’re up to the task: The harmonies are rich and sweet, the arrangements use familiar stringed instruments with variety and delicacy, and energy and good taste hold up the whole thing. On “Flesh and Blood,” for example, a blues lament that 90 percent of singers would overwail, Vikki keeps the pathos locked and throbbing in her breast; when she raises her voice only slightly to declare, “You’re looking from the outside in,” the emotional gulf between speaker and listener swells to a startling depth. On “Lighthouse,” the Simpson sisters’ lazily articulated vocals are paired with a blues-shuffle melody and Cunningham’s hyperfast, hypersoft mandolin strumming; the result trips along so gaily that you’ll hardly mind the artist-as-traveler and light-as-enlightenment clichés in the lyrics. Yet the best songs here coax unexpected life from the ashes of old folk themes. In the midst of “Highway One,” for example, Donna creates a lovely little Outback ode on the lifespan of a fire: roasting fish and warming lovers until it goes black. Such details of emotional hunger and local color are what Up All Night gets right, giving us alternative country that is truly from an alternative country. If this is what regular west Australian fisherman’s kids sound like, there should be a run on business-class Qantas seats from Nashville and L.A. —Pamela Murray Winters