What really grabbed me was "40 Watt Bulb," the one song in the session from 2004's "Stories Under Nails" (the other three were from "The Ax in the Oak," as it was his most recent release at the time). With a deep, weathered voice he sang "There's a knot only idiots tie/ from the wings of a dirty dove/ It's called love," perfectly accompanied by the metallic strum of a banjo. It's one of the greatest gifts Daytrotter has ever given me — one of the greatest Weaver's ever given me.
The lovely "Stories Under Nails" implements percussive devices that sound like they were gathered from an old tool shed. No matter what Weaver does, his songs always seem as though culled straight from the midwest soil, even as "The Ax in the Oak" breaks out electric guitar in lieu of the banjo. However, Weaver's at his best when he keeps things simple.
This is apparent on his newest album, "Mirepoix and Smoke," his songwriting stripped to bare bones, accompanied only at times by the backing vocals of Erica Froman. Otherwise, it's mostly just him and his stringed instrument (acoustic guitar or banjo). A naked song can often leave listeners bored and feeling deprived, but Weaver is in his element as a soloist. His sound is better than ever on "Mirepoix."
"City Girl" slightly emulates the "40 Watt Bulb" banjo riff; "East Jefferson" is gentle as a lullaby. He even gives us the epitome of folk music with "Maiden Cliff," giving off earthy verses and a sing-along chorus. If there's a masterpiece on every album, "Drag the Hills" is this one's. The music itself is an emotive repetition of measures, and the lyrics strong. It's an old concept, but Weaver's poetics say it best: "I'd rather have scars from the life I lived/ than have none from the one I missed."
Upcoming "Mirepoix and Smoke" tour dates:
(Chicago area dates bolded for your convenience.)
Oct. 25: Pioneer Place, St. Cloud, Minn.
Oct. 27: Rochester Civic Theatre, Rochester, Minn.
Nov. 3: Duffy's Tavern, Lincoln, Neb.
Nov. 4: Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club, Kansas City, Mo.
Nov. 5: Vaudeville Mews, Des Moines, Iowa
Nov. 6: Nutty's North, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Nov. 9: The Mill, Iowa City, Iowa
Nov. 10: Mike and Molly's, Champiagn, Ill.
Nov. 11: The House Café, Dekalb, Ill.
Nov. 12: The Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Nov. 13: Schubas Tavern, Chicago, Ill.