When: Wed., Sept. 25, 8 p.m. 2013
On the new Warp and Weft (Raven Marching Band), veteran Portland singer-songwriter Laura Veirs balances contentment with apprehension, drinking in natural beauty one moment and recoiling from human cruelty the next. The album opens with “Sun Song,” a strummy midtempo meditation on the restorative power of the sun on an early spring day—Veirs sounds palpably relieved, surrounded by plangent strings (luxurious bowed tones as well as spry plucks), the atmospheric twang of Carl Broemel’s electric guitar and pedal steel, and the brassy vocals of Neko Case (who answers Veirs’s sense of wonder in traded phrases). But the next song, “America,” breaks the spell, its portrait of a country gone off the rails opening with the couplet, “How can it be so cold here in America? / Everybody’s packing heat in America.” “Dorothy of the Island” updates the traditional blues “Motherless Children,” with a narrator who struggles to make sense of a mother’s suicide, but the serenity returns on “Shape Shifter,” which describes the morphing movements of a huge, dense flock of birds. Not every song fits into one of those categories, though: “That Alice” is a kind of love letter to Alice Coltrane, and “Finster Saw the Angels” celebrates outsider artist Howard Finster. Veirs’s husband, Tucker Martine, returned in his usual role as producer, marshaling rich instrumental detail in the ambling folk-rock songs with the help of a stellar cast including Case, drummer Brian Blade, and multi-instrumentalist Rob Burger. —Peter Margasak Karl Blau opens.