With the somewhat recent proliferation of anti-folk wryly weaving its way onto a glut of popular indie film soundtracks and adverts, it’s difficult to not look for irony in the haystack of an album like Tumble Bee. But these 13 well-chosen songs, a collection of covers inspired by the birth of Laura Veirs‘ son Tennessee, are refreshingly free of subversion and smirk. Laura’s recognisably gentle, earnest tone keeps the tracks from getting too cute. They are technically children’s songs, yes, but sometimes being a child is downright difficult; she clearly captures the bittersweetness of growing up.
The use of fiddle, banjo and tinny piano does edge the listener close to the edge of a kind of false nostalgia at times, but careful restraint keeps us from going over into hipstamatic-photo territory. Highlights are ‘All The Pretty Little Horses’, the heartbreaking traditional African American lullaby, and Peggy Seeger’s ‘Little Lap Dog Lullaby’, the album’s opener, and the snappy toe-tappy ‘Jump Down Spin Around’. It’s worth noting that Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Bela Fleck all join in the Americana fun.
Do you have to be conversant with Laura Veirs’ other albums to appreciate the direction she’s taken here? Not necessarily. But if Tumble Bee is your first introduction to the talented Oregonian singer/songwriter, may I humbly urge you to get further acquainted with her earlier efforts? As beguiling as it is, it doesn’t demand repeated listens. In terms of longevity, I think it will have earlier bedtime than the rest of Veirs’ anthology.
Released on 7th November 2011 by Bella Union