Album review: Laura Veirs, Warp and Weft (Bella Union)

Laura weaves her magic with painful and poignant tales

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The Independent Culture

With Warp and Weft, Laura Veirs delivers her most satisfying set of songs since Carbon Glacier, but here, the arrangements devised by Veirs and her partner/producer Tucker Martine are so much more expansive and illuminating, creating a rich tapestry of ideas and idioms.

As ever, elemental matters are one of Veirs' main themes, particularly her keen apprehension of the seasons. "Sun Song" opens the album on a warm, throbbing pulse of acoustic guitar, pedal steel and viola, cut with icy shards of electric guitar, an evocative celebration of freedom from the chains of winter; and later, "Shape Shifter" contains an ambiguous regard for the onset of winter, and the fellowship required to see it through.

Veirs' natural empathy for community has if anything been focused by the anxieties of parenthood: "Dorothy of the Islands" incorporates the refrain from the blues standard "Motherless Children", while one of the most moving tracks here is "Sadako Folding Cranes", a heartbreaking account of a toddler's death from atom-bomb radiation. Set to plaintive mandolin against a swirling backdrop of cymbals and keyboard textures, it's made all the more poignant by Veirs' mid-song whistling solo: so simple, so pure, so innocent, yet so powerfully emotive.

In "America", she offers a more sardonic comment on the cruelty of conflict, wondering, "How can it be so cold out here in America? Everyone's packing heat here in America". As if in protest against such deadly societal tropes, she celebrates the work and dedication of outsider artists whose fascination with otherness lends strength and diversity to a community.

Set to suitably simple unison guitar and vocal melody, "Finster Saw the Angels" applauds the open-spirited attitude of the Rev Howard Finster, the naive artist best known for his cover to REM's Reckoning, while "That Alice" offers a potted biography of jazz harpist Alice Coltrane, Veirs claiming, "That Alice made a palace for us".

As if in confirmation, the album closes with the beautiful "White Cherry", a miasmic blend of harp, sax, piano and electric organ weightlessly borne on a Kind of Blue lilt.

Download: Sun Song; That Alice; Sadako Folding Cranes; White Cherry