Laura Veirs "Warp and Weft"
Laura Veirs balances the joys and concerns of motherhood while expanding her musical palate.
Laura Veirs’ last three albums represent an arch in parenthood. 2010’s July Flame used summer as a metaphor for her impending motherhood. Tumble Bee provided music that both children and adults can share. Warp and Weft, her latest, offers a darker edged vantage point of parenthood. Pregnant with her second child during the recording of the album, Veirs’ ponders the unpredictability of a world that can be both beautiful and violent. Her purview goes beyond the concerns of her household, encompassing global factors she cannot control. Like a skilled weaver, Veirs creates a glorious sound by deftly interconnecting light and dark, hence the title, Warp and Weft a term used to describe the materials used to create cloth.
The album opens with “Sun Song” a testament to a mother’s love, both its gentle and fierce aspects. Using the spring thaw as allegory, Veirs illustrates her protective love for her son. Describing his hair catching the light of the sun she sings “Catch all the light I’d fight to death I swear/As all the other mothers would….” Following this is “America” which examines the country’s gun culture. The two tracks parallel each other not just in lyrical context but in choice of instrumentation, the first being more acoustic, the second led by electric guitar and denser production.
Veirs chooses to profile several people, both renowned and private. “Finster Saw the Angels” is dedicated to the Alabama folk artists Howard Finster and his painting of spaceship borne angels.
“That Alice” pays homage to jazz musician Alice Coltrane, the second wife of John Coltrane. “Sadako Folding Cranes” is a new telling of the story of Sadako Sasaki, a child who suffered the after effects of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. “Dorothy of the Island” describes a mother’s descent into depression and suicide. Veirs, like the character, is a mother of two young sons and understands the fears of postpartum depression. Empathizing with the woman she sings “I have known the cold the loneliness/The walking snowy lips of blue/But surely nothing like the chill/That Dorothy of the island knew.”
As a writer Veirs has widened her musical palate. Warp and Weft features two instrumentals, a mix of genres from folk to rock to jazz, and what Veirs refers to as mystical psychedelic elements. The standard rock and folk instruments are enhanced by synthesizers, harp, cello, and omnichord,
Veirs is joined by a stable of outstanding musicians and singers including members of My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, k.d. lang, and Neko Case. Veirs’ husband Tucker Martine acts as her producer and he intuitively knows how to accent her best assets, coaxing out her best performance. It’s a testament to Veirs’ talent that other talented people are drawn to work with her.
Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Host)