Laura Veirs, “The Lookout” (Raven Marching Band Records)
Coming off an exceptional album and tour with k.d. lang and Neko Case in 2016, Laura Veirs spent months and months writing and re-writing dozens of songs in her Portland, Oregon, studio. The hard work has paid off and it sounds so good and natural that you won’t notice all the perspiration bonding with the inspiration to become “The Lookout,” her 10th solo record.
Veirs makes little revelations here and there about her own life and circumstances, or about who was in her thoughts for a particular tune. But instead of screaming out the headlines, she kneads the hints into the songs. In general, Veirs says the album deals with “the fragility of precious things… the importance of looking out for each other.”
The title track, for example, is about her husband/producer/drummer Tucker Martine — her “lookout on the ground” — while “Heavy Petals” is a tribute to David Bowie, where “sunlight unserious” contrasts with his own “serious moonlight” phrase.
The death of a friend and a T.S. Eliot poem led to the affecting “Margaret Sands” — “now she’s married to the swell/and she’s swaying in the shells” — and the gently swaying “Seven Falls” looks back to childhood behavior she now regrets.
Electric harpsichord and pedal steel make for a liquid combination on a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Mountains of the Moon,” its echoes of an old English folk song a natural fit, while a viola with a hint of the Orient on “Watch Fire” helps keeps the wolves at bay.
The excellent musicianship, with guests like Sufjan Stevens and Jim James, expands the guitar/piano foundations to ideal degrees of sound, just as Veirs’ details of scandal-free intimacy result in an album that’s exhaustively gratifying.