I don’t know if it’s because I left it on repeat for half a day as I pottered around my home, or that I was in a slightly vulnerable state of mind after a day without food and the mother of all migraines, but the two intense listens I originally gave Laura Veirs‘ new collection initially left me non-plussed – acoustic balladry unrecognisable from countless other nu-folk coffee shop chanteuses, or so I thought. But after some 5 hours worming its way into my brain, something remarkable happened and a whole new level of understanding of Veirs’ music came to light. Patience and thought is a virtue. As well as 6 strong neurofen.
The jazz and lo-fi Americana influences creep up on you as textures and layers build and the voice fades in and out like a psychedelic dream. It’s certainly a very grown-up album, sonically and thematically, and the listener is lulled into the voyeur/eavesdropper role on many a confessional uttering. Steel guitar, mandolin, strings and treated Spanish and acoustic guitars lend it an almost Velvet Underground feel circa ‘Oh Sweet Nuthin’ – we’re talking more Doug Yule ‘Loaded’ era than Lou Reed. ‘Sun Song’ astonishingly seems to rock out (very gently) whilst ‘White Cherry‘ is a virtual big-band number as re-imagined by Polly Harvey in a black feather boa.
Things get slightly MOR in ‘America and ‘That Alice’ but there’s a knowing nod within to her jazz influences and a deep, rich musical heritage that is at once engaging and sweet. The balance is redressed in Veirs’ eulogy to painter Howard Finster ‘Finster Saw the Angels’ which is a veritable thing of beauty and mystery. Finster pioneered outsider art and was a preacher, also designing album covers for the likes of REM. In a way Finster sums up Veirs’ approach – spiritual, instinctive and with a rich folk-art heritage. You get the feeling he’d approve of ‘Warp and Weft’.