Dusk came on the heels of noon and the post-holiday glow of Laura Gibson's living room is a warming counterpoint. A neat cage of instruments line the red walls: those keyboarded and gourded and stringed. Paper chains wrap the Christmas tree like a winding mountain road. Strings of lights twinkle. It's a document of the quaint and gentle customs of the artist, her partner, and his teenage daughter; a gathering place for their Christmas of handmade paper chains.
We don't spend much time in here-- just long enough to make tea and get organized. We're headed outside. On to the backyard, where Gibson's sky blue Shasta trailer is parked.
The low sky arrives with an insignificant but persistent mist, and a tire swing hangs in the center of the yard. A tangle of bikes and plywood and barrels line the house. The little blue trailer sits lengthwise beside the fence.
Laura and two bandmates file inside, bringing with them guitar, floor tom, and tambourine. The trailer isn't much shelter in weather like this, but they'll warm their hands between takes with a plug-in heater.
“La Grande” is the song, from Gibson's new album of the same name. It's a tune for dirtfoots and campfire outlaws. For a hen in the oven and feathers in the yard; hounds under the porch, shotgun behind the door. Her voice is a rocking chair in a tin can, her lyrics, a bit of pioneer romanticism harkening to the song's titular Eastern Oregon city of La Grande, an old gold rush-era travelers' hub settled for its agricultural potential and proximity to natural resource, like many cities and towns of Western America. If you wanted to name it quickly, “La Grande” is music of place.
And where Laura's musical places have in the past held mirrors to a rainy, Pacific Northwest environment, her newest crop of songs seem less of the air and more of the land-- favoring a full-band experience over longer stretches of lonesome voice and guitar, or the unidentifiable atmospheric scrapes and clicks of her earlier sound experiments. No more does Laura perch like a lone bird with her orchestra of raindrops. The nest is filling, and inside the parting mists you can just barely see a paper chain running through it.
(Laura Gibson plays tomorrow, Friday, February 3, at Portland's Mississippi Studios. The sold-out late show starts at 9:15 pm, featuring openers Breathe Owl Breathe and Mike Midlo. The just-announced early show starts at 6:30 pm, though you'll have to go without the supporting acts. $10 adv. $12 door.)