The latest album from singer-songwriter Anna Elizabeth Laube is the enchanting ‘Tree’ a record that is about finding a home and laying down roots. The much travelled Laube, who was born in Iowa, raised in Wisconsin and is now resident in Seattle, must know this feeling of home can be as difficult to find as it is to categorize. It was this recent move to Seattle that would prove to be the unexpected inspiration for the new album while the environmental issues that are so important to Laube are again evident in her songs.
The album opens with an cover of a Bob Dylan song that was new to me ‘Wallflower’ is slight but sweet (Dylan originally gave the song to Doug Sahm back in ’72 and the best known take on the song is probably by Diana Krall) and Laube does it justice with a nice vocal and some fine violin from Sam Bardfeld. The rendition of ‘Wallflower’ is stylistically close to the Dylan original with the violin taking the lead over a surprisingly potent rhythm section (Laube handles bass duties alongside drummer Leo Sidran). ‘Tree’ is next up and was originally written for a competition Sing for the Trees (the song was a top 10 finalist) to raise awareness of the Pine Beetle Epidemic which has in recent years had a devastating effect on forests in North America. ‘Tree’ highlights gently picked acoustic guitar and Laube’s light airy voice while a slightly odd lead guitar line is unexpected to say the least. The tree is question was situated in the backyard of Laube’s childhood home so the resulting song feels personal, real and easy to relate to. I never thought I’d say that about a song about a tree.
The jazzy, hazy pop swing of ‘Sunny Days’ is terrific and shows another side of Laube with the acoustic bass of Ben Ferris adding welcome warmth. The mournful ‘I Miss You So Much’ follows and Laube breaks out the harmonica, which I wouldn’t always agree with, but it works well here as do the harmony vocals. As far as curveball covers go the Beyoncé track ‘XO’ has to be World Series worthy as Laube strips all the bombast and synthetics away from the original and delivers a masterstroke with the addition of Charley Wagner’s trumpet over acoustic guitar and vocal. This inventive interpretation of ‘XO’ is a definite album highlight.
‘Please Let It Rain In California’ deals with the ongoing drought conditions in California and finds Laube demonstrating her musical dexterity as she switches from guitar to piano for a gentle unaccompanied ballad. ‘Lose, Lose, Lose’ was recorded in Nashville and is the most traditionally country offering presented here complete with spoken word vocal and some really nice piano courtesy of Dennis Wage. The album concludes with Dan Tyack’s pedal steel adding terrific colour to ‘All My Runnin’ which beautifully captures the essence of what Laube was looking to achieve with this album. It might be a person, it might be a place or even a tree but it’s that certain something that grounds us and makes us feel at home.