sun 21/07/2019

Laura Gibson, Hug and Pint, Glasgow review - fable songs and unpretentious intimacies | reviews, news & interviews

Laura Gibson, Hug and Pint, Glasgow review - fable songs and unpretentious intimacies

Laura Gibson, Hug and Pint, Glasgow review - fable songs and unpretentious intimacies

Staggeringly intimate solo show from Oregonian songwriter

Laura Gibson: weighty themes delivered with spellbinding eleganceParker Fitzgerald

Laura Gibson’s songwriting was always that of a storyteller but her newest album, Goners, ups the ante still further. Her first album to be made after completing an MFA in creative writing, the album explores weighty themes like grief and the persistent march of time with a spellbinding elegance.

“I wanted to write a fable song,” she says, introducing “Domestication” to the Glasgow crowd as “a song about a wolf that tries to live as a woman”. What is, on the album, something frantic and wild turns haunted in this stripped back, solo setting: “you let me lie in your bed, saw my hunger, called it tenderness”, Gibson sings plaintively, accompanying herself on a travel-sized keyboard.

The set begins, appropriately enough, with Goners opener “I Carry Water”, the arhythmic loop from Gibson’s laptop juxtaposed with jarring lyrics which vividly describe the songwriter’s loss of her father to cancer when she was a teenager. “You were made a machine, I was made a child,” she sings in a voice that, although quiet, still manages to fill the room.

'Empire Builder' remains her finest achievement

Gibson’s voice is by turns ancient and childlike, its warm creak and crackle inspiring confidences and allowing her stories to unfold. “Slow Joke Grin” turns the everyday mundanity of creaking pipes and the crying baby next door into poetry as it unspools over a gently rolling guitar line while “Thomas” is by turns oblique and so intimate I have to look away: “Scar on your thigh takes the shape of a passenger ship, I imagine a lake, dark and warm as your mouth”.

Armed with her small keyboard, an acoustic guitar and the occasional computerised loop, Gibson is forced to strip back her songs of even the simple trappings they carry on the album - but they do not suffer for that. “Clemency” is a darker companion piece to “Domestication”, its lyrics filled with birds of prey playing the part of harbingers of death - but Gibson smiles as she swaps out her usual piano for acoustic guitar, joking that she’d run out of keys otherwise.

The piano also adds a little levity to the album’s title track, what could have been fatalism forced into jauntiness by virtue as much of its tiny size as the song’s curiously upbeat melody line. “It feels like a show tune on this!” she jokes, before revealing that translations of the album’s title play up the misery more than she intended.

While the new album claims the bulk of the set list, there’s time for some older material too: the longing and leaving of “Damn Sure”; the quiet resolve of “Not Harmless”; an acappella wandering song, the crowd on constant backing vocal. “Empire Builder”, the title track to Gibson’s 2016 album, remains her finest achievement, heartbreak and determination and the wheels of a cross-country train.

A completely acoustic “I Don’t Want Your Voice To Move Me”, the gut-wrenching closing track which, on Goners, half-obscures the heartbreak in its lyrics beneath a stately rhythm ends a magical night. Somehow both unpretentious and otherworldly, Laura Gibson is very special indeed.

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