Not many musicians have the longevity to release nine full-length studio albums. Laura Veirs is one of the few. The Portland, OR resident has been producing a constant flow of beautiful folk rock and delicately woven lyrical tales since 1999. It’s only appropriate, then, that Veirs’ new effort, Warp and Weft, is aptly named using the terms for the crossing threads in weaving. It is tightly constructed, contemplative but also commentative, and weaves together vivid images and stories of lives long gone and some yet to pass.
Listening to Warp and Weft is like enjoying a large warm breakfast on a Saturday morning while still in your pajamas. It’s satisfying and heartwarming, separating the subject from the chaotic outside world, and to spend an extra moment focusing on its intricacies will reveal granulations — a vast amount of ingredients mixed together with gentle care and purpose. Veirs recorded Warp and Weft while she was eight months pregnant with her second child. This fact is apparent as many of the songs deal with the worries, wonders, and strains of bringing a child into a world filled with as much joy as there is darkness. In the remarkable second track, “America,” rambling electric guitars and a thumping drum beat glide us over the great expanse of America as Veirs comments on the dangers she sees below, “How can it be so cold out here in America? / Everybody’s packing heat in America.”
Despite the occasional social commentary that flows under the folksy guise, there is still a strong presence of whimsical and biographical (folk) tales that have been a staple of her music since 2001’s The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae, and reaching a pinnacle on 2010’s July Flame. Veirs sings of the visionary folk artist Howard Finster in “Finster Saw The Angels,” and praises the musical contributions of jazz harpist Alice Coltrane in the super catchy “That Alice.” In “Shape Shifter,” Veirs paints a magical portrait of an ever-evolving emotional lover, mother, and human entity, crying out, “But the coal underneath they burn / I turn to you and find / I love the very one I spurned.” The Decemberists’ Nate Query lends a steady hand here with a solid bass line, as he does on a few other songs as well. Other tracks feature Neko Case, kd lang, Jim James, and other talented musicians that blend nicely into Veirs’ unique tone.
“Sun Song” begins Warp and Weft with a harmonious appreciation of the brightness of life, like a newborn seeing rays of light for the first time. The album echoes our life cycle, with trials and tribulations confronting us throughout the main body of our lives, and we finally leave this earth with an appreciation of the life we’ve experienced. As such, Veirs relieves us, and whisks us away, in the final song, “White Cherry”, with the repeated chorus line, “Abundant life / That’s this life / Lush life / That’s this life.”
Thank you for this most delicious breakfast, Mrs. Veirs.
Laura Veirs will be performing at The Chapel in San Francisco on October 2nd, 2013. You can purchase tickets at www.thechapelsf.com