The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae
Laura Veirs has one of those voices you remember. She sounds kind of like an early-'90s Suzanne Vega/Edie Brickell/Madder Rose mix, but there's something else -- something all her own. There's this strong, trustworthy, somber quality of someone you can look right in the eyes and actually want to listen to. It's a reassuring, story-telling voice, but she's also got the blues, the edge and the underlying grit of folkies-gone-by, with a passion, a mission, a need.
Veirs' second album, The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae, tells the tale of a girl traveling through the Old West. Her haunting, clear alto voice and powerful, clean guitar transport you to a barstool of yesteryear and you become absorbed in Orphan Mae's desperate searches. The album plays as a continual story and is a comforting listen, urging you to pull on some wool socks and snuggle in front of the fire with a hot toddy.
After the first listen, I found myself going back for another shot of particular songs. The traditional harmonies and emotional guitar of "Black-Eyed Susan" and the solemn lyrics and mournful vocals of "Through December" make them favorites to fill my cup. But the best song on this album, with great songwriting and frank performance, is "Raven Marching Band." Between the vividly picturesque lyrics ("The sky's a raven marching band/ black blizzard blowing across the land") to the intertwined instrument layers and the funky change-up in tempo near the end, this song will always be on tap at my house this fall.
A glance at the credits on this album reveals that Veirs can hold her own. She plays acoustic, electric and bass guitar, banjo, Wurlitzer and pump organ, not to mention that she handles all the vocals. And just in case you still need convincing, Veirs has opened for folkie supremes Billy Bragg, Eliza Carthy and Peter Himmelman, among others, and is a frequent voice at festivals, colleges and Seattle/Portland music hotspots.
Although she now resides in the Northwest, Veirs was born right here in Colorado Springs. Fortunate for us, she's stopping to water her horse again in this cow town and will be boarding for a spell. Steve Moore, a famed keyboard and trombone player from the Northwest, will accompany her on these stops before she wagon-trains to the Midwest for a couple of solo shows.
If you miss these gigs but still want a taste of this nectar, check out Cdbaby.com to purchase the album or
www.greencowgirl.com to listen to a few featured MP3s.
Let the bodies hit the floor/ Let the bodies hit the floor/grrrr!/"; repeat x 17. What a sterile little hell we live in, where a rock song conjures more laughter than testosterone-driven fits of breaking stuff. Did the band mean to make a comedy album? Doubtful. But this raises the question: If someone did set out to write a comedic rock opus, would they succeed at rocking harder than a "real" rock band? The answer is yes.
And who, you ask, has hurdled the barrier between earnest comedic truth and demon-summoning doom rock. They go by the name of Tenacious D. The brainchild of actor/comedians Jack Black and Kyle Gass who share lead, and oversized, acoustic guitar and vocal harmony, the D have brought along an impressive group of guest musicians which includes Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana) and Page McConnell (Phish) on electric guitar/drums and keyboards, respectively.
With superband in tow, JB and KG (as they affectionately refer to themselves) rip through 14 riff-heavy slabs of '70s-style hard rock. All of that era's trappings are here: The prog rock of early Genesis finds new life on "Wonderboy," an epic tale of a mystical super being and his arch nemesis, Young Nasty Man; and the sexual innuendo of Barry White oozes from several tracks, namely the duel come-on of "Double Team." White also surfaces on "Fuck Her Gently," a song dedicated to the subtleties of lovemaking.
Black Sabbath and Rainbow are also given their dues on the album's heaviest-hitting tracks. On "Rock Your Socks," Jack Black goes to great lengths to explain the hardships of being the greatest and best band ever, and "Tribute" is dedicated to the greatest song ever written, one that they can no longer remember how to play.
Tenacious D know all too well that some of the truths they sing are hard to swallow, so they've interspersed seven skits along the way to help the medicine go down. Topics range from finding the courage to express your love for a friend in "Friendship Test," to the creative process and its inevitable payoff on the album's funniest (and not surprisingly, most profane) track "Inward Singing." These guys rock harder than anyone -- let alone a couple comedians -- has the right to. Tenacious D have produced an album that will make you laugh 'til you've pissed yourself and broken stuff.