Thursday, 16 February 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #60 - Laura Gibson, "La Grande"

It's a mix up of the antique and the fresh, this album. Much has been made of its harking back to a nineteenth-century Oregon and nostalgia and Old World instrumentation; but it sounds pretty contemporary to me at first. Then I'm currently sporting a big backswood beard, so I'm probably not qualified to judge. As she says herself on the penultimate track: "Time is not against us".

The title track is all Old West clip clop and spidery acoustic guitars, seemingly a tribute to the hands that worked the soil that shaped the new West. Clay on hands this and dust on boots that. I've not quite seen eye to eye with the Americana music since I first encountered its gathering together in the pages of Uncut. But I can sort of see the point of this: it has a bit of the leaden playfulness of Tom Waits.

"The Fire" sets off a borderline ham-fisted Les Dawson piano tangent halfway through, which is nice. "Feather Lungs", which is a great title, begins with a grumbling gramophone rattle. "Red Moon" has a quirky Mediterrean cafe feel. Some steel guitar sneaks into "Skin Warming Skin" and that is always welcome. "The Rushing Dark" summons up a tiny chapel, a rickety low-key Gospel workout, in which she mumbles in her "woody whisper" that: "I could not/Repent enough".

I think it's in the clarity and the meandering of Laura's voice where I hear the present, the modernity. When she sings "My love is fierce/Leaving your limbs/Barefoot and honey wild", I hear the now, not some ancient woodland in the Pacific Northwest. No matter how much the backing reaches to past musics.

 Rating: Mellow Now out of Spooky Then

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