Meg Baird – Seasons on Earth

January 01, 1970

(Drag
City)

 

www.dragcity.com

 

Meg Baird always lent an ethereal warmth to Espers. Both her
voice and her casually intricate picking are soft, assured and limned with
sunshine. Where other singers in her general class dabble in witchy madness or
chill with tremulous purity, Baird has always reached out in a friendly, open
way towards melody. Here, in her second solo album, Baird moves further into
dappled light, navigating sinuous shifts from major to minor key, octave-length
melodic jumps and subtle blues-tinged slides with caressing kindness. Seasons
on Earth is like a wry, forgiving smile set to music, its pleasures veined with
melancholy, its ruefulness buoyed by hope.

 

Seasons on Earth‘s
arrangements are built almost entirely out of plucked stringed instruments, including
various kinds of guitars and harp. There’s a grounding acoustic strum on nearly
every song here, a staccato patter of notes that suggests melody rather than nailing
it down. To accomplish this dense but light-filled sound, Baird brings together
a modest American primitive guitar army, herself, Chris Forsyth, Steve Gunn,
Wille Lane and, her main collaborator on this album, Marc Orleans, the
Sunburned Hand of the Man and D. Charles Speer guitarist.

 

Orleans
sticks mainly to pedal steel, infusing cuts like “Share” and the “Finder” with
evocative, Americana-flavored heartache. He takes Greg Weeks’ place, in a way,
filling the crevices of Baird’s beautifully unassuming melodies with country
textures, rather than 1960s psychedelia and shifting them ever so slightly into
a different space. The harpist Mary Lattimore also makes a strong impact,
especially on the long, intricately plotted “Stars Climb up the Vine,” where
intersecting folk and blues guitar lines (that’s Baird, Forsyth and Lane) clear
for lovely flourishes of harp.

 

Baird wrote eight of the ten songs on Seasons on Earth, working the tender juncture of country, blues and
jazz. Her prettiest song here is probably “Stars Climb Up the Vine,” but it’s a
tough choice and there is much to be said, as well, for emphatic, propulsive
“Stream.” All her compositions are quite tasteful and understated, but without
edging over into tedium or over-safety. You get the sense that excesses have
been pruned, as you might prune a fruit tree, to make it fruit and flower more
powerfully.  Her taste also shows up in
the two covers, the first “Friends,” from the 1971 second album of the
folk-prog Mark-Almond duo (hardly a hot ticket these days) and the second “The
Beatles and the Stones,” by House of Love. Both are worn in and comfortable as
covers can be. You sense that Baird has spent long hours with these songs in
private, listening and playing, before sharing them with the wider world.

 

That sense of comfort pervades Seasons on Earth, as the songs surround you with warmth and
introduce, then ease, a series of melancholies. Meg Baird is no ice queen, no
enchantress, no maddened seer, but a lovely, friendly voice in the sunshine,
singing you into quiet joy. 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Stars
Climb Up the Vine” “Stream” JENNIFER
KELLY

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