By: Chris Long
Meg Baird | website |
Released on June 23, 2015 via Drag City
Most acts would kill for a CV like Meg Baird‘s. Not only has she spent the last decade or so producing – as a solo act, as a duo with her sister and as part of Philadelphia sextet Espers – some of the most mysterious and beguiling folk-based music around, she’s also worked with some real luminaries, including the mercurial Will Oldham and singer-songwriting wonder Sharon Van Etten, and toured with the late, great Bert Jansch.
Looking for a new challenge to inspire her for her third solo outing, she upped sticks from Philadelphia and moved to that bastion of hippydom, San Francisco – and that great city’s influence and history shines out from Don’t Weigh Down The Light as brightly as the West Coast sun.
While never truly turning into a rock record, Don’t Weigh has an edge that has only ever lurked in the background of her work before. Finger-picked electric guitars wail out from several of the tunes and there is even the previously disregarded rumble of percussion pinning distant beats to proceedings.
There are moments of genuine loveliness – ‘Stars Unwinding’ is as suitably heavenly as the title suggests and ‘Good Directions’ has a drive and firmness that is a welcome addition to Baird’s usual etherealness, while elsewhere, the title track furnishes echoes of her stripped-back solo debut Dear Companion with a layer of sultry guitar and the all too brief ‘Leaving Song’ has vocal harmonies as wildly beautiful as a siren’s call.
Yet for all the splendour of the eleven offerings, the tracks suffer from an issue that her work has occasionally struggled with in the past, that of hitting home in a truly memorable way. No sooner has the reprise of the admittedly beautiful ‘Past Houses’ ghosted into the ether at the album’s end, than it is a struggle to recall any of the songs.
As a result, Don’t Weigh is an album of immediate beauty but lingering frustration, a collection which shimmers and shines but which disappears like a butterfly on the wind as soon as it is over.