|Recording information: Jackpot Studios, Portland, OR; Laura's Home, Portland, OR; Scenic Burrows, Portland, OR; Typefoundry Studios, Portland, OR; Waterworks Studio B, Tucson, AZ; Wooden Fences, Portland, OR.
|Modern dustbowl crooner Laura Gibson named her third studio album after a northeastern Oregon town that "people usually pass through on their way to somewhere else, but which contains a certain gravity, a curious energy." It's a fitting sentiment as the same could be said about Gibson's music, a hodgepodge of retro Americana, dusty dirt-road folk, and cinematic, sepia-toned blues. Opening with the sprawling title cut, a dark, open-road anthem that sounds like Calexico fronted by Jolie Holland, the ten-track La Grande proceeds to pile on the atmosphere, offering up solid, pump organ-led, south-of-the-border-kissed balladry ("Red Moon") and galloping future public radio segues ("Skin, Warming Skin") with great aplomb. Gibson's reedy voice lacks power, especially when she forces the Ella Fitzgerald affectations, but when she dials back the theatrics and exposes the talented singer/songwriter within, as she does on the sweet and soulful "Milk-Heavy, Pollen-Eyed," the results are downright magical. ~ James Christopher Monger