Laura Veirs, who’s one of my favorites among today’s female singer-songwriters, was in Chicago Thursday night (May 15) for two shows at Schubas. I’ve seen her play once with a band backing her up, but I think I prefer her solo shows, when she uses looping pedals to build layers of guitar and vocal harmony. She doesn’t do it with as much finesse as the incomparable Andrew Bird, but there’s a similar vibe in what she’s doing. She even apologized at one point for not being able to whistle as well as Bird. Veirs sounded terrific, and a bonus was getting her tour-only CD Two Beers Veirs, a short collection of five covers. She said these are simply songs that she loves, mostly traditional folk or country tunes that have influenced her. She played a lovely rendition of one of them, Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train,” during the show. The CD also includes Mississippi John Hurt’s “Spike Drivers Blues,” Irving and Webster’s “Wildwood Flower,” Clarence Ashley’s “The Coo Coo Bird” and Mike Dumovich’s “Wasps of Rain.” Pick it up if you can. I asked Veirs when she’ll have a new album and she just said she’s working on it. Photos of Laura Veirs.
The opening act, Liam Finn, attracted a decent-sized crowd of his own (including some folks standing near me who had Down Under accents). Like Veirs, he also uses looping pedals, but to much more percussive effect. I’ve seen him play a few times now, but I still don’t really know his songs. They all sounded pretty strong, and the energy he displayed as he pounded away on the drums was infectious. Photos of Liam Finn.