“Alex was pretty bad ass on viola on that one!” enthuses Laura Veirs after an especially spirited performance on the folk-jazz ‘White Cherry’.
“It was violin,” corrects the multi-instrumentalist, gently brushing off the praise.
Such an error is surprising from a musician who’s built her career around precision. Touring in support of tenth solo album The Lookout, the Portland-based musician sings with a coolness that enunciates every word.
Her lyrics are equally exacting, drawing on naturistic phrases of ‘turquoise beams’ and ‘sapphire skies’ to create vivid stories that explore domestic relationships, especially in relation to American landscapes and forgotten characters (including 70s singer-songwriter Judee Sill).
There are times when these words are central to the song, the acoustic finger-picked ‘I Can See Your Tracks’ having no extraneous instrumentation and reaching an abrupt halt when Veirs stops singing. At other times, as on ‘When It Grows Darkest’, her three-piece backing band add atmospheric loud and quiet dynamics.
These arrangements extend her appeal, contrasting the jangling country of ‘Wide-Eyed, Legless’ with the warm hues on rocking set closer ‘Pink Light’, on which Veirs plays an electric guitar (“it’s an exhilarating experience!”). It’s this richness of sound that helped to introduce her to a new audience with her 2016 collaboration with Neko Case and k.d. lang, and it’s easy to imagine the latter covering the gentle shuffle and brushed drums on ‘Sun Is King’.
Her influences are equally acknowledged in her encore of Daniel Johnston’s ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’, which adds a prettiness to the cracked original and an air of practicality that befits her studious appearance.