Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. This week, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we would like to thank our local music community by offering songs exclusively from Northwest artists. Today’s featured selection is “Sleeper In The Valley” by Portland artist Laura Veirs from her forthcoming album, July Flame, on Raven Marching Band Records.
Portland local Laura Veirs strikes back with her seventh album of delicate folk musings entitled July Flame (out January 12 on her own Raven Marching Band Records). Okay, perhaps “strikes back” is not the proper turn of phrase with which to describe Ms. Veirs’ newest offering. Less of a “strike back” and more of a “fragile delivery,” July Flame dials down the instrumentation of her last two releases (Saltbreakers, 2007, and Year of Meteors, 2005), opting instead to refocus on her exceptional talents as a traditional singer-songwriter extraordinaire. Anyone familiar with my taste knows that this is stripping down or de-banding is almost always a good thing in my eyes. I love the truth and focused artistry of music that is wholly owned by a singular voice.
Composing primarily on her acoustic guitar and banjo, Veirs and longtime producer/ current BF, Tucker Martine (Mudhoney, Bill Frisell, Sufjan Stevens, Decemberists) sought to regain the sparseness and strength of her first two albums while at the same time pushing forward and still keeping material fresh and interesting — no easy task. Veirs abandoned countless compositions and experienced something of a creative-block in her quest for a body of songs that could first and foremost stand alone as minimalist folk pieces. After several months of uphill clawing, Veirs finally reached a self-described plateau, a breakthrough of sorts that would eventually lead to July Flame’s skeletal track-list.
These cut-making songs were then fattened by the usual cast of players: Karl Blau, Steve Moore, Eyvind Kang, as well as newly appointed harmony provider Jim James of My Morning Jacket. “Sleeper in the Valley” is an excellent example what July Flame has to offer. Veirs’ skillfull finger-picking (nylon and banjo) is immediately on display -– the morose tones of which are the perfect compliment to introspective lyrics and subdued string arrangements. This song screams autumn in the northwest: Short days, windshield wipers and coffee: this song is perfect for today.
Laura Veirs will be back in Seattle a week from today, actually, finishing a tour with fellow Portlandites Blind Pilot. You can find the rest of her tour dates at her website and MySpace page. For now, here’s a little preview of the making of July Flame: