US - Pennsylvania - Full Moon 186 - 11/10/11
Seasons On Earth
Witchita Recordings / Drag City
Meg Baird is the most profiled member, singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist of the excellent ensemble Espers along with ditto and producer etc. Greg Weeks.
Put short (the rock journalism way) the band fits nicely into the acid folk bag, ... or psychedelic folk, or folk-rock, or indie-folk... It's not quite that easy. Espers
offers more challenging music beyond the genres including distorted electric guitars and ditto electronic and experimental excursions. But at least it gives you a clue
what we're dealing with. Espers is probably a leading band of the blooming folk-something scene in Philadelphia; Fern Knight is another. Apart from being a member of
Espers, I guess Meg is most profiled as guest vocalist on Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's EP Ask Forgiveness from 2007.
Meg has cultivated the sombre and acoustic side of Espers on her two solo albums. Here are lots of great and cosy acoustic guitar playing and hushed and beautiful,
occasional elfish, vocals. My only real objection to Seasons On Earth is the use of steel guitar. I'm allergic to that gliding and sliding stringed thing, at least
when played in the country and/or western style and being the dominant instrument. And it is too present on too many songs here for my liking. Well, that's my personal
problem and, to be fair, there are a couple of tracks here where even I think the steel guitar works fine as an integrated part of the music and adds another dimension
to the songs. In particular the most orchestrated song of the album, "Stream" that even includes two electric guitars and percussion! It's the song of Seasons On Earth
that stands out, the only one that's not entirely subdued, mixing louder (well, to some extent) and softer parts.
Also, Meg's vocals might sound a bit monotonous on a couple of songs, especially "Share", that's quite steel-infected, too. The elfish side of her voice, though, is
shown in particular on the closing song of the album, "Song For Next Summer", very hushed with acoustic guitar and harp. Another favourite. I also enjoy the non-steel
songs "Even Rain", where Meg duets in a seductive way with herself, and "Beatles And The Stones", a cover of a House Of Love original.
Bert Jansch, the formidable singer, songwriter, guitar player, folklorist etc. once member of the great folk-jazz-blues-rock band Pentangle, sadly passed away last
moonth at the age of 67. He shared the bill with Espers on a few live dates. The songs and guitar playing of Seasons On Earth might serve as a great homage to him.
If you're into more contrasts, both sombre and challenging music I strongly urge you to seek out Espers. Especially Espers II
is a fantastic album. My favourite of the new millennium, no doubt about it.
Copyright © 2011 JP