Laura Veirs - July Flame

Daniel Willis 26/01/2010

Rating: 4/5

It should be a surprise for those for whom July Flame is their introduction to Laura Veirs that this is her seventh studio album. Not only the originality but the freshness of this music rings of a young artist only recently introduced to full-time recording and the comfort she finds in the style of these songs would surely not endure so long. This is the ultimate secret and pleasure of Veirs; each album is a new direction, a new element which makes it so fascinating to listen to whilst the same voice laces images around each created atmosphere.

July Flame is no exception. Rather, it is exceptional from the beginning as each song imbues a sense, not of something lost, but of a turbulent past existing before the serenity now enjoyed in the music. No pretention in the violins, not the same stylised finger-picked guitar we're used to. Lyrically, Veirs creates images and atmospheres which are open to interpretation, to be absorbed as a whole rather than analysed individually. She veers between singing as she wishes, sounding indelibly in tune with a pastoral America of folk music and road trips, and a calmed tone which smiles knowingly at her own modernity and that of the world around her.
Where Saltbreakers had production, liveliness and pictures of a green, New England countryside kept well under control, this album feels like a changing of the seasons and a different journey entirely. This is not what's outside your front door; it is discovery. Veirs seems reluctant of the stigma and stereotype often attached to folk music, on Saltbreakers this was done with sound but here it is thematic, the essence of the album sounding like the past being acknowledged and then adapted to the present. Nowhere is this more clear than the opener I Can See Your Tracks, an ethereal song which could conjure snow or wilderness or a dense forest with the lines “Oh/I can see your tracks/But I won't follow them”. Veirs is the poet who has seen it melt, built on or chopped down and here is the story of her moving on.
This is one of those albums which offers you the supreme pleasure of multiple experiences and long enduring admiration. You will hold the first five tracks on repeat for a week only to discover the rest is just as remarkable, play only your favourites and listen to it all through at once. Sitting back, it will flow over you, each piece picking up different parts of your brain and interesting them before you even listen to what's been sung. With a backing band like a Fleet Foxes tribute of Sioux-only membership, Veirs creates joy and appreciation with Carol Kaye, fire and youth in Summer is the Champion. These contrast nicely with the wisdom and experience of Wide-Eyed, Legless and the emotional exploration of Where Are You Driving - “You tangle up in the gnarled tree/You do as you damn well please”. July Flame encapsulates the themes of the whole album - echoes of longing, violin coda reaching through time to remind the protagonist of where they came from - but it is only part of a wider journey. Resolution and comfort run throughout; this is an artist at ease with their past and direction who encourages us to recognise the implications of what has happened to us, as well as to come to terms with our new found love for Laura Veirs.