Laura Gibson @ The Louisiana – 14/04/2012

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In part one of a weekend double-bill of folk at The Louisiana, Oregon-born Laura Gibson stopped off in Bristol, touring her most recent album La Grande.

Support tonight was provided by Emma McNeill (and friends), who’s becoming a bit of a Louisiana regular, and another Bristol band, The Minke Whales, whose instrument line-up gives rise to the usual Mumford comparisons but who, after a slightly messy start, found their stride in a set of jaunty folkabilly. The crowd seemed to enjoy it although they did seem to have brought quite a few vocal friends along with them. The impartial observers also seemed to enjoy it too though and the lead singer’s Scottish accent (think Admiral Fallow), the rockier sound and the addition of some female backup vocals might help them to stand out in a packed niche.

On to Laura Gibson then, whose previous album Beasts of Seasons won substantial acclaim among reviewers, largely for her distinctive, crackling, squawky vocals, tonight coming at us through a combination of a standard microphone and a compressing Copperphone mic which she used heavily throughout the new album, La Grande.

As you’d expect, the set was largely made up of songs from the new album, although there was room mid-set for an exquisite solo cover of Lead Belly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, which went a little bit like this. Gibson’s inter-song banter is charming and amiable (she uses the quaint, humble American phrase “thanks, you guys” regularly) and, with interjections from her band, particularly her bass player, Nate Query, funny. Discussing the track from the album Skin, Warming Skin, about “the loss of innocence”, she told a particularly good story about how one French radio interviewer took a particular interest – “when did you lose your innocence, Laura?” – and then probed further – “how did you lose your innocence, Laura?”. Awkward. Or discussing the songs Feather Lungs, which she started writing as a lullaby for her niece but then became about the idea that going to sleep is like practising for dying!

Flummoxed by The Lousiana’s lack of somewhere to go before an encore, Gibson and band (like many before them) put down their instruments, briefly edged towards the edge of the stage before giving up on the idea and picking up their instruments again for a couple more. Getting the audience involved always tends to please the Louisiana’s audience and we all dutifully joinned in to provide hummed back-up to an acapella, and then unplugged, rendition of The Rushing Dark from the album.

It’s always nice when a band remembers their previous times in Bristol and Gibson told us that on both previous trips to Bristol she has seen a fox, which she has taken as a good omen and a sign that she has a home here. It’s that kind of charming whimsy that is characteristic of Laura Gibson’s songs and both La Grande and Beasts of Seasons would make excellent additions to the record collection in preparation for lazy summer evenings or sunset road-trips alone or with friends.