“Freak folk” never did justice to the decade-plus-old US project to reinhabit ancient song forms.
Influenced by Appalachian mountain music, contemporary outsider folk, and Library of Congress recordings of their great-great uncle, I.G. Greer, Meg Baird Influenced by Appalachian mountain music, contemporary outsider folk, and Library of Congress recordings of their great-great uncle, I.G. Greer, sisters Laura and Meg Baird have been performing together since 2001.
Best known as the ethereal singer with Philadelphian psychedelic folk band Espers, this New Jersey-born fingerpicker has also built up an increasingly impressive solo career, and her third album is bound to send folk-lovers drifting deep into the mystic this summer.
Inspired by her move to San Francisco after a decade in the city of Brotherly Love, she describes it as “a leaving record”. Sitting down at home after long hours working at an environmental non-profit organisation, she found herself thinking about change on both a personal and planetary level. “I was struck over and over with themes of memory and forgetting,” she says. “What stays and fades away.”
All 11 original songs spiral out from a strong, controlled core of patience. “New light, even though you left me hanging. I stayed up all night just to see what would happen,” sings Baird on Past Houses. The soft, direct beauty of her vocals has long been compared to that of English singers such as Sandy Denny, but there’s a lot of California in the music, too.
You can almost smell the colitas on Good Directions, with its layers of jangly Byrdsian strumming. And Mosquito Hawks recalls Joni Mitchell’s Clouds.