MEG BAIRD IS BACK! Don't Weigh Down the Light is her first album since 2011's Seasons On Earth, and it arrives alive with mystery and color — buoyed by a voice that's a warm, mesmerizing call across time.
Meg Baird's last decade would be remarkable by any artist's standards. She co-founded and recorded three albums with Es- pers — one of the most distinctive and hypnotic bands of the cen- tury's first decade. She recorded two solo LPs for Drag City: Dear Companion and Seasons on Earth. She also collaborated with Will Oldham, Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, and Steve Gunn and toured with the legendary Bert Jansch.
And while it's been four years since her last release, the days since have been anything but restful. She played drums and recorded with Philadelphia cave punks Watery Love, and toured with Michael Chapman, Michael Hurley, Vile, Cass McCombs, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Lambchop. And after more than a de- cade as a fixture in Philadelphia's boiling-over musical scene, Meg moved west to San Francisco where she joined forces (as drummer and lead vocalist) with members of Comets on Fire and Assemble Head to form the moody and thunderous Heron Oblivion.
She also wrote and recorded this LP — Don't Weigh Down the Light.
Like Meg's previous LPs (and much of Espers output,) the foundation of Don't Weigh Down the Light is her lyrical, precise, and propulsive fingerstyle guitar work and a voice that moves from soaring and tender to soothing and spellbinding. A voice that more than a few have likened to folk's greatest female voices: Sandy Denny, Jacqui McShee, and Shirley Collins.
But where Dear Companion and Seasons on Earth were relatively minimalist affairs, Don't Weigh Down The Light is multi-hued and swimming in texture. Electric guitars and organs float and dart around Meg's intricate picking and voice like ghosts. Distant drums thump as heart- beats. Piano and electric 12-string guitars shimmer like sunlight on rippling, crystalline seas.
Don't Weigh Down The Light is also a record of its time and place — recorded in a city desper- ate to remain a haven for dreamers, freaks, and weirdoes while a new Gilded Age rolls over the land like a flood. So it's a record that finds Meg casting a cautious sideways glance — questioning sweet talkers and promises of easy illumination. It's also a loving embrace — and a reverent saluta- tion — to the sunshine-melancholy artistic traditions of California and the City.
For all the moods and quiet elegance on Don't Weigh Down The Light there is nothing too precious or immaculate in the production. It was recorded at Eric Bauer's Bauer Mansion studio: more famous for producing fuzzed-out and unhinged work from Six Organs of Admittance, Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, and White Fence.
The studio's informal setting was a perfect match for the stew of pop-song architecture and impressionistic moods that are the backbone of Don't Weigh Down The Light. Songs forged from Meg's deep, natural Anglo-Appalachian instincts and wed to the deepest, most longing sounds of Skip Spence and Ben Chasny, Virginia Astley's pastoral abstractions, Opal's dusty, paisley West, Gene Clark's Byrds-era torch ballads, and Popol Vuh's dreamscapes.
Inevitably, some songs reflect the solitude of leaving and arriving anew. But there's also a sense of strength in friendship and home, with lyrics full of affection, care and guidance. And in spite of that wry, wary, sideward glance at power and promises, they are a plea to live, to thrive, and to stick around. A reminder that we need the dreamers — even if it's wake-up time.