This is a solo tour at the most basic level: Laura Veirs is not only performing without a band but she’s also driving herself around the country for these seven dates and manning the merchandise stall.
It’s a period of solitude that should prove fertile ground for the Portland based singer-songwriter’s lyrics, which often have an observational rather than participative feel. ‘Shape Shifter’, for instance, is about a murmuration of birds while ‘When You Give Your Heart’ notes with scientific coolness, “Pollinators flex their wings.”
The lyrical detachment suits her clean finger-picked guitar style and innocent vocal delivery. This translates into homely Laurel Canyon style country-folk on the likes of ‘Make Something Good’ and ‘Spelunking’, which features downbeat whistling. There’s a certain stillness to these tracks; a space between the phrasings that makes their melancholy feel reflective rather than emotional.
Her wholesome style meets with less success when she performs other artist’s material. This is unfortunate given that the set is heavy with covers, despite having a back catalogue of 10 albums to draw upon. She sounds too fresh-faced to sing Daniel Johnston’s cracked ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’ and isn’t plaintive enough to carry Big Star’s ‘Thirteen’.
The covers nonetheless demonstrate the breadth of her musical influences, from bluegrass through to power pop and traditional American folk. It’s the latter that comes to the fore when she closes the set with the up-tempo ‘Jailhouse Fire’ and ‘Life Is Good Blues’, both of which call upon the audience to participate with clapping and backing vocals.
It shows her talent for drawing people together in the intimate venue and, in lending textures to the material, scratches beneath the surface of her music’s chill politeness.
Gig date: October 12