written by Laurel Brauns
Laura Gibson’s shows are entrancing. Maybe this is because they lack the explosives and theatrics that so many musicians turn to once they realize they’ll get more attention with antics such as taking their shirts off. Instead, Gibson’s quiet poise and confidence generally arrest her audiences into silence as she flawlessly picks her way through intricate patterns on her guitar and sings in a steely, crackling soprano.
Gibson performed a special early CD Release show at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon last Friday, February 3, for her new album “La Grande.” This early show was added at the last minute since her late show sold out. She made her way through most of the tracks from her new record with help from her full backing band and a vintage microphone, actually recreating many of the antiquated studio sounds. She also threw in a few oldies and a solo version of “In the Pines,” an old folk song made popular by Nirvana in the 90s.
Both her live performance and her new record go in new and expansive directions for Gibson. True to its name, “La Grande” feels like it could have been recorded in an old creeky house in Eastern Oregon that has been frozen in time since the 20s. A host of famous musicians, including two members of the Decemberists and Joey Burns from Calexico, add haunting, country-jazz textures. The overall effect is music that could be the soundtrack to a pre-Depression era cocktail party.
The only critique is that sometimes Gibson’s jazz-tinged vocal styling feels a little forced, possibly in an attempt to distance herself from the generic singer/songwriter label. Overall, “La Grande” should be added to the music collections of all Oregonians who love folk music, and are interested in songs written about the state.
Click here for details regarding official album release party, March 1.