Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 03/18/2012
Support Women Artists Sunday: Laura Gibson
Laura Gibson grew up in a small town in southern Oregon called Coquille. Her family lived in the middle of the woods, as her father was a forest ranger and her mother a teacher.
Her introduction to music began early, listening to the folk albums her parents kept around the house and learning to love the intense imagery and narrative storytelling of folks like Bob Dylan. Gibson was inclined toward music while growing up, but too shy to perform live for people.
She moved to Portland to go to school (on a math scholarship) and continued to grad school, where she studied counseling. After college, she took to playing music at nursing homes and for hospice patients. Seeing the joy it brought to her audiences, Gibson developed the confidence to take her act to the clubs. She began performing around Portland’s burgeoning indie folk music scene in 2004, releasing a self-made album (produced by fellow Portlander Drew Grow, of the Pastor’s Wives) and eventually garnered the attention of local indie label Hush Records.
She recorded her debut full-length album, If You Come to Greet Me, for that label partly in Portland and partly in San Francisco. On it, she was backed by imaginative fellow Portlanders Norfolk & Western. The disc earned considerable local praise and Gibson went on tour – mostly on the West Coast – through Oregon, Washington, and California – in support of it. Since then, she’s toured Europe quite a bit and has released two more full-length albums (including 2012’s La Grande, on Barsuk Records). She also released two EPs – Amends (self, 2004) and Six White Horses: Blues and Traditionals Vol. 1 (Hush, 2006). The latter sees her covering traditional folk songs by artists like Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotten and others.
Indeed, its these traditional artists of blues and folk music to which Gibson’s music is most frequently compared. Her voice can sound a bit like Billie Holiday, filtered through the lens of the mid-20th Century folk revival. With all the nuance and artistic grace of both.
Since releasing her debut EP in 2004, Gibson has collaborated again with Norfolk & Western as well as other Portland-based artists like Laura Veirs, the Portland Cello Project (with whom she has recorded and performed quite a bit), M. Ward, Horse Feathers, and more. She’s become a fixture at NW clubs and festivals like the Doug Fir Lounge, Tractor Tavern, Green Frog, and Pickathon Indie Roots Music Festival (held just outside of Portland at Pendarvis Farm).
In 2012, she released her latest album La Grande, followed by a tour through Europe, the United States East Coast, and then likely a summer of more festivals and club dates. For more information or a list of her tour stops, keep an eye on Laura Gibson’s website.
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