Laura Veirs, July Flame
Probably the honey-voiced singer-songwriter’s best yet — and that’s saying something
You might know Laura Veirs as this year’s Folk-Singin’ Hot Girl to Watch: the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy is already calling her latest record “the best album of 2010,” and Jim James of My Morning Jacket, that loveable weirdo-beardo who also sings backup here, insists that Veirs is like “a queen bee that… makes honey in the hairs of my cochlea” — and, uh, we think that’s a good thing. After seven albums of rootsy folk hymns carefully plucked on a nylon-string guitar, it’s about time the Portland singer-songwriter is finally getting recognized, just in time for her best album yet. Recorded in a barn, July Flame feels as organic as a Fair Trade coffee bean, with banjo, piano and guitar wicking together a woodsy, fresh-air sound. These are naked love songs, though they’re less boy-meets-girl than girl-falls-hard-for-the-world stories. Exulting in tiny moments of beauty, Veirs celebrates the firecracker-orange of a summer peach (“July Flame”), the rustle of snakes in the grass (“I Can See Your Tracks”), the sight of sap that drips like “blood trapped inside the maple tree / the sunlight trapped inside the wood” (“Make Something Good”). She should count her voice among those small wonders: sweet and clear and liquid, it’s like the melted honey wax she sings about on “Summer is the Champion.” “It makes your heart molten somehow,” she insists. We know what she means.