Laura Veirs, Cataldo, Old Believers

I first happened upon the phenomenal Portland-via-Seattle-via-Colorado songwriter Laura Veirs maybe four years ago, after she'd already released a couple of albums. But 2005's dreamy, quirky, occasionally orchestral-poppy, sometimes biting Year of Meteors grabbed me and didn't let go of my ears (or my CD player) for ages.

Her voice struck me: Neither breathy-sweet and sensual nor cracked and desperate, hers is a dry, husky delivery, one that at first encounter seemed a bit glacial. Yet as the album progressed, a gamut of feelings punctured that curtain of detachment. And her lyrics, often referencing the natural world, were remarkable: vivid imagery and the music of language tumbling together in stunning bits of poetry.

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Laura Veirs, Cataldo, Old Believers

Veirs' 2007 follow-up, Saltbreakers, was equally alluring, bringing her even more national acclaim. For her just-released seventh full-length, July Flame, Veirs has assembled an all-new quintet (who'll be bringing strings, balalaika and exotic percussion to augment the usual guitar-centric setup).

On tour, she's promising lots of brand-new material to go with the old tunes that remain as arresting as the first time they burrowed into her listeners' head.

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