Laurel Brauns never really managed to emerge from the fog of singer-songwriters clinging to the U.S. West Coast. True to the genre, her 2001 debut album, Swimming, was recorded in basements and released to little fanfare. But there’s a peculiar magic wreathing the album that makes Laurel stand far above the litany of artists straining to be loved. Her album is a simple one. It’s a young woman and a guitar, spiced with violin, mandolin, and cello provided by her musically inclined friends. Nothing revolutionary. The reason Laurel Brauns is a fantastic singer-songwriter is simple as this: she is a fantastic singer and a fantastic songwriter. Her singing is the best I’ve ever heard.