Laura Veirs July Flame

Laura Veirs' seventh album might as well be listed as part of Oregon's treasured natural heritage. Her latest release is an epic tour de force of contradicting features that perfectly harmonize; it's a magical blend of understated ingenuity, simple metaphors with transcendental effects and an authenticity that feels soothingly familiar. The polished sound and sophisticated production of July Flame reveal a greatly matured Laura Veirs at her most ambitious, supported by the expertise of long-time producer (and significant other) Tucker Martine. Beyond sonic progress, her lyrics make evident that her songwriting has also matured. The raw, pastoral, almost childlike romanticism of Carbon Glacier and Year of Meteors has been refined into a more subtle articulation that, although less fanciful, remains seductively wistful. Veirs' acoustic guitar picking and colloquial vocal delivery continue to define her creative topography. Accentuated by cascading string arrangements, squalling howls (from Jim James of My Morning Jacket) and shafts of sunlight from a pedal steel's dawdling resonance (played by Chris Funk of the Decemberists), July Flame's landscape is breathtaking and consistently beautiful from beginning to end. (Independent)