Meg Baird Dear Companion

Guitar player/vocalist for Philadelphia-based psych-folk collective Espers, Meg Baird has gone solo with a perfect summer porch album, a hazy, sunlit, beautifully spare record that hearkens back to the original meaning of the word "folk.” Dear Companion is heavy on covers but Baird’s own material blends so seamlessly with traditional tunes like "Willie O’Winsbury” and "The Cruelty of Barbary Allen” that it seems as though she might have been born in the wrong century. Simple finger-picked acoustic guitar and dulcimer allow Baird’s angelic vocals to shine. The few embellishments she permits herself — occasional harmonies and delicate reverb effects — are so subtle as to be almost missed upon first listening but add warmth to arrangements that may have otherwise been too austere. An album highlight is the cover of "The Waltze of the Tennis Player” by obscure ’70s Canadian folk trio Fraser & DeBolt but that’s merely one gem among many in this gentle, flawless collection. (Drag City)