Steve Wilson. On music.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The 2011 Countdown Continues with No. 21, Meg Baird

Fans of music bubbling up from the indie-folk underground first became acquainted with Meg Baird as primary vocalist for the Espers. The Philadelphia ensemble is one of those bands that critics twist themselves in knots trying to categorize. While their sources are traditional, they put their own distinct spin, just as some of their inspirations – The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention and Pentangle  - did in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Of course writers and listeners struggled then to categorize the music of those bands; and they didn’t even have psych-folk or freak-folk to throw around yet. 

The Espers cover a lot of ground (psychedelia, shoegaze and Middle Eastern influences, as well as the full range of folk idioms). As a solo artist, Meg Baird steers a little narrower course on her new, second album Seasons on Earth. Conceptually, she betrays the sensibility of her generation when it comes to vocals and their place in the mix; where Joni Mitchell or other singers of her generation might have given pop prominence to vocals, Baird gives her guitar equal value. The results can vary from mesmerizing (it does lend a trance-like, live performance presence to these tracks) to maddening (sometimes it’s really hard to discern the lyrics).