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‘Mirepoix and Smoke’: a quiet masterpiece

Rare is the recording that leaves you feeling as if the songwriter is singing about your life through the prism of his or hers, as Ben Weaver’s stunning new “Mirepoix and Smoke” does throughout nine songs. To be sure, there is an earned wisdom in these tunes, coming as they do from a young father inspired by lost love  and a chop-wood-carry-water philosophy that stems from Weaver’s time working as a cook, and all the to-the-bone experiences that happens when friends band together to make food and love.

“I’d rather have scars from the life I’ve lived than have none from the one I missed,” sings Weaver, and then he sings it again and again and again, a backwoods mantra, as if to remind/convince himself that regrets are beautiful and that we are here to learn and grow by any means necessary. But instead of a feeling of restlessness, the listener is left with a decided sense of peace — as if the songs themselves, and the recording of them, have quelled the writer’s wanderlust.

Weaver sang many of these tunes at the Bryant-Lake Bowl last Thursday, backed only by his minimal banjo and Liz Draper’s stand-up bass. Which is fitting, as each song in concert and CD suggests a falling leaf by the river. In the crowd that night were several local poets and songwriters, and when Weaver sang, “You know how it is when you lose your head and your heart comes shooting out of your neck,” and “The longing could sink a ship,” the room tilted in consort.

“Mirepoix and Smoke” is Weaver’s seventh CD. The temptation here is to compare it to Springsteen’s “Nebraska” or any of Greg Brown’s similarly stark beauties. But a more apt reference is Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” that epic break-up record that sounds fussy in comparison. That is, there is a fresh cry in Weaver’s deep baritone that cuts through to describe the vagaries of the human heart and all those aforementioned scars. Yours, mine, and his.

Ben Weaver celebrates the release of “Mirepoix and Smoke” with The Pines tonight (10 p.m.) at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.

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