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Open Air Currents is a look at the new music we're discovering together on Open Air, JPR's house blend of eclectic contemporary music. Listen weekdays 9am-3pm on JPR's Rhythm & News Service.

Open Air Currents: Laura Veirs, Fantastic Cat, Tami Neilson

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Laura Veirs performed live at JPR in 2018.

With newfound independence, Laura Veirs released a gorgeous new album. Fantastic Cat is a new supergroup of well-seasoned singer-songwriters. Tami Neilson's new classic country release includes a duet with Willie Nelson.

Laura Veirs - Found Light

Laura Veirs takes the helm on her new album. For the first time, she co-produced and arranged the tracks that make up Found Light. Veirs' marriage to Tucker Martine, who produced many of her previous albums, ended just before her 2020 release, My Echo. Taking charge of the creative decision making for Found Light has given Veirs new artistic energy. Kate Stables of the band "This is the Kit" provides an echo-like backing vocal on the lead track, Autumn Song, sounding an inner voice that encourages her to let go. It sets the stage for an album about leaving the past and re-emerging. Raw emotions play out on break up songs like Ring Song with lines like "I pawned my wedding ring at the Silver Lining/I felt sad, I also felt a weight go flying." On others, Veirs seems to be reconnecting with herself. In Naked Hymn, she explores the excitement of new relationships singing "Sappho's choir inside my mouth, praiseful after years of drought. By candlelight I release what's let go of me." Most of the album is lush and downtempo, but Veirs returns to her early indie rock roots on Seaside Haiku with a bigger back beat and fuzzy guitar. The ambient sound of Signal is punctuated by subtle percussion and Veirs' whispery voice gently dancing over sparse guitar and keyboard. Independence seems to suit Laura Veirs. Even as we're just getting started absorbing Found Light, I'm looking forward to what's next.

Fantastic Cat - The Very Best of Fantastic Cat

The tongue-in-cheek liner notes say: "They said it couldn't be done. Four different songwriters joining forces to form a single band? There was simply no precedent (outside of CSNY, the Beatles, The Traveling Wilburys, The Highwaymen, Monsters of Folk, etc). Fantastic Cat did it anyway." Fantastic Cat is a singer-songwriter supergroup comprised of Don Dilego, Anthony D'Amato, Mike Montali (of Hollis Brown) and Brian Dunne. Their name and the seeds of the band came about when Dilego and Montali were talking at a club and the idea of a singer/songwriter group emerged. They asked a server what she thought a good name for a band would be and Fantastic Cat was conceived.The Very Best of Fantastic Cat is not a "best of" record. It is, in fact, their debut. The lead track C'mon Armageddon is a scathing, Dylanesque folk rock tune lampooning American politics, written in 2018 by Anthony D'Amato. Brian Dunne had been working on the song Fiona for some time, but could never quite land it. After embracing it as a love song, he brought it to the group who finished it in the studio. Ultimately, each member takes a verse, capitalizing on the talents and distinct voice of each artist in the collaboration. So far, their very best lives up to its name.

Tami Neilson - Kingmaker

Nestled into a space between country and western, soul, R&B and rockabilly is the Canadian born New Zealand based singer Tami Neilson. Neilson began singing with her family in the Neilson Family Band as a kid. The band toured North America alongside big names like Johnny Cash and Kitty Wells. These classic country icons helped shape Neilson's retro style. Her new release, Kingmaker is a variety pack of tunes ranging from cinematic, string-infused country and western to doo-wop, soul, and blues. The music would have been right at home on the radio alongside Patsy Cline, Dusty Springfield, and Bobbie Gentry. Neilson wrote Beyond the Stars, the first single released from the album after the death of her father in 2015. Joining her on the track and taking on the role of her father is Willie Nelson who accents the melancholy lyrics with his signature style of guitar playing. It's authentic, heartfelt classic country reminiscent of Willie's earliest work. So many artists who play retro styles wind up sounding like an imitation. Neilson is the real thing, whose roots playing with the masters from the golden age of country give her a unique opportunity to add something new to a great old tradition.

Dave Jackson curates the music on JPR's Rhythm and News Service, manages music staff and hosts Open Air, JPR's hand-picked house blend of music. He loves discovering great new music and sharing it.