Band: Laura Veirs
Album: July Flame
Release Date: January 12, 2010
I first heard Laura Veirs in 2006 when her album, The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae, was recommended to me via Last.fm. I’m not sure what I was listening to at the time that was similar to her music, maybe The Little Willies, maybe Fiona Apple. Whatever it was, I was pleased to hear a voice completely unknown to me but familiar in some cosmic way.
Her new album, July Flame, is no different. It is haunting and beautiful, deeply personal. This is her first release since leaving a major label, and I find it to be not only her most fully realized work, but also the most accessible for audiences. Her voice has grown into itself, and long-time producer/boyfriend Tucker Martine knows how to play to her strengths.
July Flame is full of soft guitar, soaring strings, horns and voices layered on one another to create a universe all its own. I’ve even made up a new genre for this album to fall into, indie-western. It has a lot of elements of country music, but not the country music we know today. Not the Toby Keith-ified country music you hear blaring out of pickup trucks in small towns. No, I mean real old-time country/folk music that would’ve made Johnny Cash proud.
My favorite track on this new record, “Sun Is King,” features steel guitar by The Decemberists’ Chris Funk, and harmony vocals from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. They also lend a hand on a few other tracks spread out throughout the album. “Sun Is King” is definitely a country influenced song, but I’ve never heard a country song with lyrics like this:
Did you see the ice in his eye?
Did you see the dagger caught in his smile?
Innocent as a summer flower
With a serpent coiled under his collar
I find it hard to believe that after seven albums, Laura Veirs’ audience hasn’t grown larger. She writes good songs, works with talented musicians and has a musical personality that lends itself to a kind of Starbucks-y crowd. I guess being from the northwest she has to compete for fans with bands like Modest Mouse, The Decemberists, and Death Cab for Cutie. I honestly think she’s as good as all of those bands (well, maybe not The Decemberists. I mean, did you hear Hazards of Love??)
It is my hope that all of you who read this at least give July Flame a shot. If you like it, work backwards through her catalogue. I really dig her song “Jailhouse Fire” off of the album, The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae, I mentioned at the beginning of this piece.
- Laura Veirs is based in Portland.
- July Flame is available on Laura’s website for $7.99 (mp3s) up to $32.99 (Vinyl + T-shirt + Songbook).
- Laura will play Lincoln Hall on September 27 with The Watson Twins and Led to Sea. Tickets are $14 ($16 at door).
“July Flame” official music video