Album: Laura Veirs

The Triumphs & Travails of Orphan Mae, BELLA UNION
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The Independent Culture

Previously only available via her shows and website, Laura Veirs' 2001 debut album The Triumphs & Travails of Orphan Mae has now been given a proper release following the widespread acclaim for last year's tremendous Carbon Glacier. As with that album, there's a strong central theme involved - in this case, an Old West saga based around the exploits of Mae, a sort of distaff rake's progress - and although the settings are understandably simpler than on subsequent records, the rudiments of Veirs' distinctive blend of folk and avant-garde elements are already in place here. This is thanks to the producer Tucker Martine's subtle arrangements, which incorporate various found-sounds behind her guitar, pump organ and banjo parts. Orphan Mae is a feisty gal who has been introduced to us in "Jailhouse Fire", being partially stripped by a group of men, then finishing the job herself before torching the jailhouse and "heading up the river as the blood washed red" in the ensuing "Up the River".

Previously only available via her shows and website, Laura Veirs' 2001 debut album The Triumphs & Travails of Orphan Mae has now been given a proper release following the widespread acclaim for last year's tremendous Carbon Glacier. As with that album, there's a strong central theme involved - in this case, an Old West saga based around the exploits of Mae, a sort of distaff rake's progress - and although the settings are understandably simpler than on subsequent records, the rudiments of Veirs' distinctive blend of folk and avant-garde elements are already in place here. This is thanks to the producer Tucker Martine's subtle arrangements, which incorporate various found-sounds behind her guitar, pump organ and banjo parts. Orphan Mae is a feisty gal who has been introduced to us in "Jailhouse Fire", being partially stripped by a group of men, then finishing the job herself before torching the jailhouse and "heading up the river as the blood washed red" in the ensuing "Up the River". As with Gillian Welch's work, the result is a striking mixture of ancient and modern, Veirs being another songwriter/performer who is revitalising a traditional form with contemporary attitudes and modernist strategies.

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