Back on February 10, Portland's Laura Veirs performed a set in Copenhagen, wrapping up the European leg of her current tour, and then headed back to American shores. The tour brings her to Atlanta tomorrow night where she'll play at set at the Star Bar (the same venue where I saw Jonathan Richman earlier this month).
Originally from Colorado Springs, Veirs studied geology and Mandarin Chinese in college. Her first foray into songwriting reportedly started with a geological expedition in China, where she was so miserable serving as a translator that she immersed herself into writing lyrics as a way of coping. In 1999, she put out her first album, the self-titled Laura Veirs, recorded live and featuring just her voice and guitar. She has since made five highly acclaimed records with longtime producer Tucker Martine (Mudhoney, Bill Frisell, Sufjan Stevens, Decemberists).
Veirs' seventh album, July Flame, was released in January on her own record label. A collection of delicate folk songs, July Flame focuses on her talents as a singer-songwriter. Composing primarily on acoustic guitar and banjo, Veirs and Martine sought to regain the sparseness and strength of her first album while at the same time pushing forward and still keeping the material fresh and interesting.
Veirs says she abandoned countless compositions and experienced something of a creative block in her quest for songs that could stand alone as minimalist folk pieces. After several months of uphill clawing, she finally reached a self-described plateau, a breakthrough of sorts that would eventually lead to July Flame’s track list. The songs often display morose tones which compliment Veirs' introspective lyrics and subdued string arrangements.
Here's a video of the making of July Flame at Flora Studios in Portland. With its cats, bearded musicians, and references to impermanence, this video so reminds me of my time in Portland and its short days, bookstores, windshield wipers, and coffee.
Not a bad effort for a geologist. Here's Laura performing a song from the July Flame album about another Pacific Northwest musician, Everett, Washington's prolific session bassist, Carol Kaye:
Sincere songs by women about women somehow put me in mind of the Women and Women First Bookstore, where the lovely St. Vincent (Annie Clark) recently performed Laughing With A Mouth of Blood.
Another St. Vincent video, this time away (far away) from the Woman and Woman First Bookstore. More specifically, here she's in Santa Monica, performing The Strangers on KCRW:
And finally, here's a last little bit about the Women and Women First Bookstore. No, there's not really such a place, and, yes, it's a comedy act - Fred Armisen (SNL) and Portland's Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney. . . everyone in Portland's now officially in a band) performing together as "ThunderAnt." This is another one of the several video skits they've produced.