Laura Veirs – The Lookout
Laura Veirs' The Lookout makes us feel that maybe as long as she's making songs we'll be alright
Laura Veirs has carved herself a really interesting niche over the last 20 or so years, fashioning a sort of bluegrass folk composed of luminous vocals, intricate finger-picked guitars and almost haiku-esque lyrical concerns that can happily switch between pastoral prettiness and state of the nation addresses. In recent years, she’s also branched out into a podcast centring on musician who are parents, writing children’s books and running a record label. A new album emerging from between the twin poles of Trump and #metoo, already graced by dozens of reviews falling over themselves to call it her best, could only be a winner, right?
Opening with Margaret Sands, a stripped-back ode to a lost friend – 'Now she's married to the swell' – is typical Veirs. This is followed by Everybody Needs You, gifted with a more sonically interesting arrangement (Veirs does mild electronica) and a bewitching chorus that you can only listen to with your eyes closed, all of the pains of your life blissfully lifted. Seven Falls lilts and drifts, adorned in pedal steel and a dreamy chorus that asks, 'How can a child of the sun be so cold?' Mountains of the Moon is a sombre Grateful Dead cover – 'High-ho the carrion crow,' she sings. Then we have Watch Fire, a vintage Veirs graced with a lovely Sufjan Stevens co-vocal.
The Lookout perhaps does not give up its pleasures as easily as some of her earlier records. There are triumphs here – not least the title track which marches along at a sprightly pace graced by some lovely violin sounds. But there are also songs that worry at their subjects, circling and darting in and out of the light. When It Grows Darkest, for instance, employs a clarinet and strings to conjure images of smashed cars. Zozobra isn’t a million miles from Warp & Weft track America. These are songs taking a long hard look at the world – and what she sees isn’t always cause for optimism. And yet she still gazes out implacably from the cover. Maybe she’s our lookout after all. Maybe as long as she’s making songs we’ll all be alright. Let’s keep our fingers crossed eh?
Listen to: Everybody Needs You, Watch Fire, The Lookout