First Impressions: Furling by Meg Baird

Here’s an odd way to start a review: I was unfamiliar with Meg Baird prior to yesterday afternoon, when I clicked play on her fourth album, Furling. (Some will no doubt be astonished by that fact, but it is what it is.) About halfway through the first track, however, I wanted to know more about her.

Wikipedia, as it often does, filled in the blanks: A Jersey girl, in the 2000s she fronted the Philly-based psych-folk group Espers and also played drums in the punk band Watery Love, plus put out two solo albums. In the ‘10s, she released two more solo works, joined the psych-rock “supergroup” Heron Oblivion, and recorded a well-received album with harpist Mary Lattimore that peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s New Age music chart. She also collaborated with her sister Laura on four albums, with the first coming in 2003 and the last in 2013. She’s now based out of the Bay Area, though one hopes she still roots for the Eagles. 

In a figurative sense, “Ashes, Ashes” and the songs that follow are antonyms of the album title; they’re akin to unfurled freak flags fluttering, albeit it ever-so-gently, in the wind. Imagine what David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name… would have sounded like if Sandy Denny had joined in on the fun or how Opal might have developed if Kendra Smith had remained in the fold. Then toss both of those fantasies into a pot and mix them together—the result would be this tasty set.

The Bandcamp album description reads, “Furling moves through the breadth of Meg’s musical fascinations and the environments around them—edges of memory, daydreams spanning years, loose ends, divergent paths, secret conversations under stars—all led by a stirring, singular voice calling experience and enlightenment, elation, and ecstasy into bloom.” That rings true, but I’d add that the beginnings and ends of the nine songs are meaningless, as Furling plays like a 44-minute waking dream. Too, her ethereal vocals, sometimes wordless and other times difficult to decipher, color the mix as if another instrument. 

The opening cut, “Ashes, Ashes,” is an atmospheric wonder, the aural equivalent of the ocean tide pushing onto the shoreline—or, perhaps, a slow-moving wildfire encroaching on town. The eight tracks that follow are mesmerizing marvels as well, either waterspouts or wafts of smoke (depending on metaphor) that further the mood. “Star Hill Song,” which reminds me at its start of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” is one example:

“Will You Follow Me Home?” is another example (and highlight), with the drums adding a martial flair to the proceedings. 

Since late December, I’ve found myself revisiting old favorites—as well as the archival recordings Neil Young has shared with fans over the past few years—more often than is my norm. Part of that is due to the winter season, I’m sure, as new releases aren’t plentiful right now, but the larger reason is simply the pull of the past, aka nostalgia, missing times long gone. Maybe that’s why I find Furling so appealing—it features a warm folk-rock vibe that sounds, to my ears, like a lost treasure from the days of yore.

The track list:

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