Laura Veirs, Tumble Bee

Ashley Melzer

By Ashley Melzer

on 11.09.11 in Reviews
Portland folkie sings a lovely batch of children’s songs

For seven albums now, Laura Veirs has played the role of ethereal folk-nik to the Portland indie set with aplomb and pitch-perfect vocals. With her finger-picked melodies and ruminating lyrics — usually snuggled in guitar chimes, horn filigrees and whatever her superproducer/husband Tucker Martine brings to the table — she’s often threaded the needle of being pastoral without being merely boring. On her latest, Tumble Bee, Veirs tries her hand at children’s music. The tunes are a mix of traditional reels (“The Fox,” “All the Pretty Horses”), standards from folkies like Ruth Crawford Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and contemporary gems (notably, the title track by long-time collaborator Karl Blau). Smartly, Veirs and Martine reign in the flair on these songs, banking instead on the sweet economy or physical propulsion of the arrangements. “Jump Down Spin Around,” a song first made famous by Harry Belafonte, explodes thanks to a particularly excited performance by Veirs and her chorus of friends. The traditional “All the Pretty Little Horses” is thoughtfully lulling. Guest spots from talented chaps like Bela Fleck (who plays on “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O”) and the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy (who trades verses on “Soldier’s Joy”) add communal charm to an already lovely batch of tunes.