Only too rarely do your ears perk up and catch the sound of a truly lovely, unaffected voice. Laurel Simmons, currently of Portland, Oregon, possesses one. The reason one is attracted to a singer´s voice is a hard nut to crack. A singer is generally either performative – the song just a showcase for her personality – or representative, an instrument through which the song, which is primary, is conveyed. Simmons´ delivery is clear and sweet and captivating and her lyrics are strong, even if she claims “words are nothing in this stillness”.
As MayMay, her voice wraps around them as lightly as summer dress. “And So I Place You in the Setting Sun” is chamber folk with no preconceived genre notions. She and her friends Nicolas Marshall and Raúl Pastor Medall (with a little Heather Broderick on cello) pick up all kinds of instruments to add the right touches in just the right places – the single ping of a glockenspiel or an extended, intimate encounter with the piano. A pedal steel slips just a few notes under the door to underscore the call to remember on “Lines to Water”, before the drums and electric guitars add heft to her admonishing refrain. “Winter Air” is sung like a prayer of adieu to a “faithless heart”.
Before her debut long-player came “EP”, five songs actually recorded back in 2008, featuring Broderick and two colleagues from the band Loch Lomond. It´s a much more soft-spoken collection, written, by her own account, while relaxing in a battered lawn chair in her backyard and, if I understand correctly, as a postcard to the folks back home in Arizona. And it is a lazy afternoon. Wonderful to stretch out to, but I prefer the bolt-upright of her long-player (and the absolutely perfect sound engineered by Nils Frahm). She could be the American Beth Orton, if Beth Orton weren´t already the American Beth Orton.