SEASONS ON EARTH
Following a debut of covers that has been labeled as a cult classic, a young folk singer and guitarist tries out some of her own material.
Picking up my copy of SEASONS ON EARTH, my first response is a tinge of disappointment. Not through any flaw of the album itself, I hasten to add, but simply because I have a pre-release wallet, and therefore, no lyrics to read through while it plays. With some artists this tends not to be a problem but with Meg Baird, I will always listen carefully to what it is she is saying and not just the beautiful ethereal voice in which she is saying it. The community of musicians from whence she comes seems to demand a certain intelligence. To track Meg’s influences is to look not only to folk and its more psychedelic offerings but to such figures as New York Beat poet Kenneth Koch to whom Baird nods in the title of her album.
This being said this is not an intellectual exercise. Certainly her last album, 2007’s debut DEAR COMPANION, was anything but. Its surprising range of covers quite rightly earnt her a name as a solo artist outside of band Espers; it was an incredibly personal and emotionally wrought LP. So what to expect from her second album, four years down the line from DEAR COMPANION’s songs of love, betrayal and isolation and this time largely self-penned.
I wish I could have the lyrics in front of me, I really do. It sounds like a simple complaint but Baird joins the likes of Joanna Newsom and Joni Mitchell with a voice so tender that it often hides the beauty of her poetry. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing in itself, I have poured over both Newsom and Mitchell’s album sleeves in the past and found a wealth of material to excited about. Yet it does mean, at this point, that it is difficult to get beneath the cryptic surface of her songs.
The surface itself is very accomplished, having brought in the talents of many guest musicians. And you do get tantalizing glimpses of Baird’s writing talent, such as the melodically bewitching Even Rain – ‘that night, when the clouds and the maidens go down, the fool and the fool come face to face…we’re all the same’. The album’s two cover version’s suggests themes that I have no doubt wait to be uncovered in her own songs. Mark-Almond Band’s Friends is a sharp contrast to them stylistically and speaks frankly of growing older, of the transition from an idealistic youth. It is followed by a gem, Beatles and Stones which was originally recorded by House of Love. Here, references to the troubles and the politics of the 1970’s are balanced out by memories of the bands that led the youth culture, remembered with fondness. When placed in Baird’s own chronology it is a beautiful, complex choice of song, I just wish I could get at the rest! Hopefully when the album is released at the end of this month my frustrations will come to an end. Katy Browse