The Hug & Pint, 28/2/19
The music of American singer-songwriter Laura Gibson will for me be forever linked with the Scottish Highlands. Staying all alone in a converted train carriage on a dead-end road near Glenfinnan Viaduct, without any music on my phone to break the intense silence, I downloaded the title track of Gibson’s album Empire Builder, which I had reviewed for this very magazine the week before I went on my solo trip. The following days I sang the song at the top of my longs as I cycled through forest and past lochs, or listened to it on repeat while watching out the window of a train. While full of folky American sounds, it was an accidentally excellent fit, as the Oregon-born artist’s songs definitely have a sense of journey embedded within them.
About mid-way through her gig at the Hug & Pint, Gibson tells the story of this song: it was written during a three-day train journey crossing the United States from Portland to New York, from a community she loved and felt very comfortable in, towards a place she would know nobody. It is emblematic of Gibson’s songs: melancholic, yet tinged with hopefulness. Her performance suits the space of the Hug & Pint: it is intimate and close, although fortunately the artist doesn’t smell as much of spring onion as the actual venue does.
In New York Gibson completed a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing, and you can certainly tell from her song writing. Her lyrics are enigmatic stories, full of mystery. From a wolf who tries to live as a woman to a creek muttering a name and a dark flock of birds above the backyard, some inspirations are explained but many are left untold, open to interpretation as they should be. Playing tracks almost solely from her recent albums Goners (2018) and Empire Builder (2016), it is a treat to watch Gibson perform these songs by herself, without any of the experimental additions from the records, on a guitar and miniature keyboard that fits in her suitcase. While happily chatting to the audience in between songs, during her performance she turns almost inside herself, producing something full of feeling and devotion.
With support acts from Jared Celosse and Molly Linen, it is a gorgeous night of folk, story telling and closeness.
[Image credit: Veronica Rose]