Charleston folkie Laura Thurston's stripped-down solo debut is a breezy piece of work. The eight-song collection melds elements of traditional folk with '60s-style pop, '70s folk-rock (think Joni Mitchell-meets-Judy Collins), and Dylan-esque harmonica accents. She describes the music as "melodic, soulful folk-grass," which is a pretty fair assessment.
Thurston is known in the local scene as a member of the bouncy, hippie-friendly acoustic combos Hollow Reed and Hick Child Soup. She lets her guard down a bit with this all-original, self-produced solo project, going for intimacy and immediacy over big grooves and jams.
Recorded live, Thurston played and sang with a one-man band set-up on the album last winter, strumming an acoustic six-string while singing, playing a mounted harmonica, and tapping on tambourines and stomp boxes with her feet. She sings expressively throughout the set.
Mid-tempo album opener "Scrapbook" sets the sweet tone of the album with a nursery rhyme melody and a hand-clappy rhythm. She sounds like a wide-eyed innocent with a vivid imagination and noble aspirations. The swingin' "Blue Green" could be a tree-lover's anthem. The dream-like "Drifting" drones with a simple melody, a soft click of percussion, and some of Thurston's more whispery lines (Kimya Dawson's Juno soundtrack tunes come to mind).
By the halfway point, the songs and their sophisticated chord progressions start sounding pretty similar. Back-to-back, the two chords and rhythmic bounce of "Stars On My Pillow" and "Caroline" seem like two parts of the same suite. "Carrying" gets considerably heavier with a rockin' beat and a few ominous minor chords. It's a nice contrast to Thurston's naturally sugary delivery.
With its cleverly twisted harmonica melodies and guitar dynamics, the anthemic closer "Build a Song" stands out as one of the more sophisticated arrangements of the collection. It's as lo-fi as the rest, but it feels like a song that's come to fuller fruition. If she aims for more of this kind of thing, Thurston's next homemade disc could be an award-winning effort. (myspace.com/thurstonlaura)
Laura Thurston plays at Toast of Charleston at 7:30 p.m. on Sat. Aug. 27 and at Café Kronic at 11 a.m. on Sun. Aug. 28. She tours through North Carolina over the next two weeks and returns to Charleston for a performance on the Pour House deck at 6 p.m. on Sat. Sept. 17.