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Laura Veirs

Born October 24, 1973 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, introspective neo-country-folker LAURA VEIRS has steadily risen from the ranks of kooky singer-songwriter to a “critics choice” for her wondrous fifth album YEAR OF METEORS (2007) {*8}. Her second release for Nonesuch Records, mapped out her intimate vignettes and romantic/poetic visionaries like a modern-day SUZANNE VEGA or SHERYL CROW; backed by her Tortured Souls band (Steve Moore, Karl Blau and MODEST MOUSEr/boyfriend/producer Tucker Martine), one should be taken in by her wordplay banter on `Galaxies’, `Secret Someones’, `Parisian Dreams’ and `Magnetize’.
Of course, we’d have to go back several years to find her self-financed debut, the eponymous LAURA VEIRS (1999) {*5}, a live set that portrayed her coffeehouse status at the time; her clear girly verbose and often polite pronunciations, trademark VIERS from the get-go. THE TRIUMPHS AND TRAVAILS OF ORPHAN MAE (2001) {*7} let the listener wander into her mythical melodious memoirs; `Up The River’, `Jailhouse Fire’ and `Blue Ink’ sung with passion.
Augmented by jazz alumni Bill Frisell (guitar), Amy Denio (sax) and Fred Chalenor (bass) among others, her lyricism was obviously more than just folk on following set TROUBLED BY THE FIRE (2003) {*7}, her first for UK Bella Union imprint; Kill Rock Stars would re-issue it in 2006. Nonesuch debut CARBON GLACER (2004) {*8} put Laura on the map, at least in a critical light; check out `Ether Sings’, `The Cloud Room’, `Lonely Angel Dust’ and `Riptide’.
Album number six SALTBREAKERS (2007) {*7} was the Seattle lady’s most assured record to date, tracks like `Ocean Night Song’, `To The Country’ (highlighting the great Frisell again) and the title track, expanded her hook-line-n-sinker appeal. A subsequent covers EP comprised MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT’s `Spike Drivers Blues’, A.P. Carter’s `Wildwood Flowers’, CLARENCE ASHLEY’s `The Coo Coo Bird’, ELIZABETH COTTEN’s `Freight Train’ and Mike Dumovich’s `Wasps Of Rain’, showing there was more than one feather to her bow.
Back to basics and out of the control of a major record company, JULY FLAME (2010) {*7} was free to expand her horizons in any direction she desired. Her best-selling record to date by far (it bubbled under the Top 100), there was definitely a return to her folky halcyon days. While FLEET FOXES had made it possible for Americans to purchase into the burgeoning nu-folk scene, her best compositions here were taking their own turn via `Sun Is King’, `I Can See Your Tracks’ and `Where Are You Driving?’
A busy lady with many strings to her ribbon bow, Laura consecutively dished out three contrasting sets, a kiddie one: TUMBLE BEE (2011) {*6}, a soundtrack: HELLO I MUST BE GOING (2012) {*5}, and her entry into the pop-rock charts (at least in Britain): WARP AND WEFT (2013) {*8}. While a raft of folkies have taken it upon themselves to simplify their songs for the children’s market, and others have ventured into celluloid (featuring several instrumentals), the feat was relatively unique. Centring on her proper follow up to “July…”, there was at least one gem on board in `Sun Song’, a breezy and fragile delight. Looking between the horizons of her own life and that of her country, the anthemic `America’ takes one to the tough cities, unromanticised and full of recession-fuelled baiting. Restoring her electric guitar to the spotlight, she’s also joined by hubby/producer, Tucker Martine, NEKO CASE, k.d. LANG, Nate Query (of The DECEMBERISTS) and among many others, MY MORNING JACKET. `Dorothy Of The Island’ was sourced from trad roots (recurring lyrics: “Motherless children have a hard time”), while Laura gets grungey-folk for `Say Darlin’ Say’, and jazzy for `White Cherry’. A lush album with kooky quality.
Among a triumvirate of classic alt-country/indie-femme-folk solo stars that comprised NEKO CASE, k.d. LANG and herself, Laura achieved her greatest chart success to date (#33) with the gorgeous and graceful `Case/Lang/Veirs’ set of summer 2016.
Regrettably, VEIRS’ aforementioned country confab didn’t equate to any major sales or Billboard 200 space for her tenth solo set, THE LOOKOUT (2018) {*7}. The reason why her star faded so rapidly was unclear, though in a cut-throat music business, spirited, stalwart and steadfast were review words too dull to pin on an effervescent indie-folk artist. Tucker Martine was still at the helm, and guests (SUFJAN STEVENS and MY MORNING JACKET’s Jim James, respectively) had their say on `Watch Fire’ and a re-vamp of the GRATEFUL DEAD’s `Mountains Of The Moon’. Of the other candy-coated or commanding confessional cues, `Margaret Sands’, `Everybody Needs You’ and the title track, were worth placing on one’s Sunday morning playlist to soothe away one’s troubles.
© MC Strong 2011-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Aug2013-Apr2018

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