Meg Baird iTunes Tracks Meg Baird Official Website The Baird Sisters Official Website

Meg Baird

+ {The Baird Sisters} + {Meg Baird – Helena Espvall – Sharron Kraus} + {Heron Oblivion}

Over time immemorial singers have been compared to SANDY DENNY, PENTANGLE’s Jacqui McShee or JONI MITCHELL, but none fit the bill so endearingly as folk-rock nightingale MEG BAIRD. From her days as foil to Greg Weeks in his post-millennium freak-folk ensemble ESPERS, to leading out part-time indie supergroup Heron Oblivion (with alumni from COMETS ON FIRE), most recently drumming for Philadelphia punks Watery Love on a couple of 7-inch 45s and performing with sibling Laura for a handful of BAIRD SISTERS sets, the versatile Meg is a delight to her growing legions of fans.
One can trace the dexterous New Jersey-raised MEG BAIRD back to 2001, when she briefly joined indie quartet Clock Strikes Thirteen on a split 45, `We Could Talk Together’, after they’d been around for several years. To balance her away-time with Philadelphia’s ESPERS (from 2002 onwards), she’d return home to Burlington, New Jersey to perform with The BAIRD SISTERS; herself on vocals, acoustic guitar and dulcimer, her sister Laura on vocals, banjo and mandolin for a self-explanatory live CD-r, AT HOME (2003) {*7}. Spurred on by their great-great-uncle I.G. Greer, an old-timey Appalachian artist whom they explored from the vaults of the Smithsonian Institute, the siblings put their own twist on traditional tunes, `In The Pines’, `Willie Moore’, `Chilly Winds’, `Single Girl’, et al.
Together with Greg Weeks, Brooke Sietinsons, Margie Wienk and others (sister Laura guested on flute), the angel Meg was an integral part of the seminal, self-titled ESPERS album in 2004; her role as vocalist/guitarist stealing the show on the eerie `Flowery Noontide’ and `Daughter’. Recalling TREES (Celia Humphris, in particular), the darker and deep “Espers II” (2006) saw her been given an expanded role on every classic psych-folk dirge aboard; `Dead Queen’, `Widow’s Weed’ and `Dead King’ all exceptional pieces of work; Wienk had now made way for Helena Espvall, Otto Hauser and Chris Smith.
Meanwhile, BAIRD, and fellow singers HELENA ESPVALL (also a cellist buddy from their Trollslanda duo) and SHARRON KRAUS (on dulcimer/guitar), delivered the trad-biased LEAVES FROM OFF THE TREE (2006) {*6}, a splendid UK-only effort for folk-purists who’d a penchant for the traditional: `Bruton Town’, `Barbry Ellen’ and `False Sir John’ were coffee-house delights in full flight mode.
MEG BAIRD’s solo DEAR COMPANION (2007) {*8} – her first for Chicago’s Drag City Records – combined her classicist folk leanings by way of a handful of trad covers, including the title track, plus material from The NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (`All I Ever Wanted’), JIMMY WEBB (`Do What You Gotta Do’) and CHRIS THOMPSON (`River Song’); Meg, herself, contributed `Riverhouse In Tinicum’ and `Maiden In The Moor Lay’. Later in the year, BONNIE PRINCE BILLY invited ESPERS trio Weeks, Wienk and BAIRD in on his mini-set/EP, `Ask Forgiveness’.
The BAIRD SISTERS duly filled the void of old-timey acts on a self-published second CD-r set: 2008’s live-in-studio LONELY TOWN {*6}. Coalesced by traditional pieces such as `Sugar Baby’, `The Three Babies’, `Over The Waterfall’ and `Little Maggie’ (not forgetting a cover of GENE CLARK’s `Silver Raven’), one could almost taste the fresh air beneath the Appalachian mountains.
Back from her duties with ESPERS (on 2009’s “III”), the wispy MEG BAIRD’s sophomore set SEASONS ON EARTH (2011) {*7} saw a slight step away from freak-folk toward steely Laurel Canyon country-folk, even in covers of MARK-ALMOND’s `Friends’ and HOUSE OF LOVE’s `Beatles And The Stones’ (wow!). Pedal steel guitar and dobro played by Marc Orleans, harp by Mary Lattimore and electric guitars by friends Steve Gunn or Chris Forsyth, the Brian McTear-produced set harked back to the turn-of-the-70s when the sun shined into every bedsit. Possibly in tribute to the late finger-picking legend JACK ROSE (who sadly died of a heart attack in December ’09), `Even Rain’ seemed not too far from the lilting and intimate `Stream’ and the JUDEE SILL-esque `Song For Next Summer’.
Sadly, if not a subscriber to The BAIRD SISTERS’ website, one would’ve missed their very limited-edition LP of UNTIL YOU FIND THE GREEN (2012) {*7}; recorded at Forest Hill Farm and comprising their own compositions and one traditional piece, `A Soldier Being Tired’. From the same venue, the siblings worked as guests on GLENN JONES’ Thrill Jockey album, `My Garden State’ (2013).
Far from the maddening crowd of the awol ESPERS, who’d now taken a frustratingly long period to release a fourth set, multi-instrumentalist MEG BAIRD (with cohort Charlie Saufley from ASSEMBLE HEAD IN SUNBURST SOUND) unveiled her third solo album, DON’T WEIGH DOWN THE LIGHT (2015) {*8}. Probably not in commercial competition with Laurel Canyon convert LAURA MARLING (but should be!!), the evocative Meg straddled a myriad of ethereal folk sophistication on opener `Counterfeiters’, plus `Mosquito Hawks’, `Past Houses’ and the touching `I Don’t Mind’ – Meg is surely the missing link between ANNE BRIGGS and Liz Frazer (ex-COCTEAU TWINS).
HERON OBLIVION was the amalgam of Baird and the aforesaid Saufley, plus COMETS ON FIRE (et al) alumni Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson. Easily the most interesting but understated supergroup since way back in the day, many reviewers matched their sonic-folk with that of a meeting between MC5, CRAZY HORSE and FAIRPORT CONVENTION. Sub Pop were quick off the mark to see their potential, and in their well-balanced debut set, HERON OBLIVION (2016) {*7}, Meg’s majestic musings matched the space-rock of her brooding buddies. Fluctuating from pastoral-folk to sprawling bouts of shredded guitar, `Beneath Fields’, `Oriar’ and the 10-minute DeLorean dunk, `Rama’, were its most delicious exercises.
Bringing back into the fore, ethereal improv harpist MARY LATTIMORE (from their salad days propping up The VALERIE PROJECT), MEG BAIRD dispatched yet another reflective collaboration. Producer/engineer Thom Monahan envisioned GHOST FORESTS (2018) {*7} as he, apparently, intentionally, left the tape running over the six or so minutes of experimental opener, `Between Two Worlds’. Gently shift-shaping their subtle finger-picking and strumming to suit the slightly electronically-enhanced songs (`Damaged Sunset’ and `Painter Of Tygers’ two particular highlights), the dreamy duo anchored the set with a lengthy rendition of `Fair Annie’, a track at least in keeping with their trad-folk traits.
© MC Strong/MCS 2011-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Jun2015-Nov2018

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