Editors' pick

Laura Veirs and the Hall of Flames

Singer-Songwriters
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Editorial Review

LAURA VEIRS
CD Review: "July Flame"

Laura Veirs's new CD, "July Flame," may well be one of the best releases of 2010, but more important, it represents a major rethinking of the singer-songwriter album. In a field where rhythm and harmony have atrophied in the shadow of the all-important lyrics and where those lyrics have tended to prosaic confession rather than poetic economy, Veirs's break with usual practices seems as radical as Joni Mitchell's shift from "Court and Spark" to "The Hissing of the Summer Lawns" in 1975.

Veirs's longtime collaborator Tucker Martine has one foot in the jazz world and another in the pop sphere, and his fusion of the two on "July Flame" has liberated Veirs's approach as much as Mitchell was freed by her collaboration with Charles Mingus. Veirs and Martine fashion a buoyant chamber-jazz sound from the viola of Eyvind Kang, the steel guitar of Chris Funk and the high tenor of Jim James.

Where Mitchell lengthened her lyric lines, however, Veirs shortens her, relying on Emily Dickinson-like omissions to imply far more than she's saying. The title track becomes a mesmerizing meditation on lust without ever explicitly saying so. The lyrics are never vague; they always describe each image sharply. But between the images are gaps through which we are pulled by the reverie of the music into new meanings.

-- Geoffrey Himes, Weekend (Feb. 2010)