Posts Tagged ‘ damien jurado

btv084 Bosque Brown : Baby

Bosque Brown
Baby (btv084)
Buy Online | cd/LP+7″
Track listing:
A Side
1. White Dove
2. Went Walking
3. So Loud
4. On and Off (Part 1)
5. Texas Sun
6. Whiskey Flats
7. On and Off (Part 2)
B Side
8. Train Song
9. This Town
10. Oh River
11. On and Off (Part 3)
12. Phone Call
13. Soft Love
C Side (7″)
14. Lover’s Lullaby (T. Van Zandt)
D Side (7″)
15. The Sweetheart Tree (H. Mancini)
Bosque Brown have been quietly working on their sophomore full-length with producer Chris Flemmons (Baptist Generals). A dramatic step forward from their debut, Plays Mara Lee MillerBaby features a fuller sound and more expansive instrumentation. Where Mara Lee was recorded in a few short days with relatively few takes, Babybenefits from the band’s ability to record closer to home, allowing them to take as much time as necessary. Baby‘s rich musicianship reflects Bosque Brown’s increasing stature as a live band. The group took their time to find the right sounds — adding things in, taking things away, letting the songs grow under Flemmons’ watchful guidance.

As always, Baby‘s chief strength lies in the vocals. Principal songwriter Mara Lee Miller’s voice is frequently doubled with her sister Gina’s, allowing for a richer, more textured sound. Drummer Winston Chapman and Flemmons, himself a longtime drummer, experimented with prepared drums, mic placements and various recording techniques to color the percussion. A cluster of a cappella tracks, treated with heavily-layered vocals and echoing reverberation, borrow from the sacred harp tradition, and are arranged to break the record into four segments. Lush, soaring keyboards, organs and pedal steel blend with varying rhythms. Flemmons’ production techniques effortlessly capture both the intimacy and expanse of his home recording space.In her often personal lyrics, Miller reflects on her small-town Texas upbringing, coming to terms with her history. On “Oh River”, references to old-time hymns mix with the imagery of a dark, cold, flowing river — perhaps a subtle reference to Texas’ Bosque River, for which the group is named. “White Dove” and “Soft Love” bookend Baby, opening the record with a sense of dark desperation and then gradually finding hope in love.

Burnt Toast Vinyl discovered Miller through folk singer Damien Jurado, who had met Miller on tour. At the time, Jurado was acting as a bit of an A&R rep, funneling prospective acts and demos to the label. Their debut was released in 2005, and Mara and Ryan were soon joined by Mara’s sister Gina and friends Jeremy Buller and Winston Chapman to form the live version of Bosque Brown. The band’s live shows quickly captivated music fans in the Dallas/Denton/Ft. Worth area, owing largely to Miller’s striking stage presence. Plays Mara Lee Miller found its way onto many Top 10 of 2005 lists, and was named the top release of 2005 by the Dallas Observer. A four song ep,Cerro Verde, was recorded in 2006 and released as a one-sided vinyl LP with an accompanying cd. Cerro Verde was a stripped-down effort, chronicling Miller’s family experiences in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Bosque Brown track “Fire Fight” was featured on the soundtrack to the independent film Jumping Off Bridges, which debuted at 2007′s SXSW film festival. Bosque Brown have headlined their own shows, and have played with bands including Two Gallants, John Vanderslice, Will Johnson, the Baptist Generals, Bobby Bare Jr., Damien Jurado, Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jolie Holland,and The National.

The artwork for Baby is by Mara’s longtime friends Sean Horton and Melissa Mudry who she knew from small-town life in Stephensville, Texas. They introduced her to the short-lived Lift to Experience which had a large cult following in Texas and helped open Mara up to Texas musicians like Townes van Zandt and the outlaw country of The Flatlanders and Hank Williams. The photos are from Melissa’s grandmother who had a ranch in California, and portray many of the record’s themes.

“The only thing released around Dallas this year that beats Plays Mara Lee Miller is Bosque Brown’s live show. Songwriter Mara Lee Miller created some of the year’s most haunting and touching works on this debut–”Still Afraid” and “Fine Lines” will stop your heart–but her live band, and especially the backing vocals of sister Gina, as additions to Mara’s balance-beam vocals in concert have turned me into a blubbering, crying fool. Get ready, America…you’ll fall in love with Bosque Brown too.” –Sam Machkovech, The Dallas Observer

 

 

btv086 Denison Witmer : Carry the Weight LP

Denison WItmer
Carry the Weight (btv086)
Buy Online | LP
Track listing:
A Side
1. Beautiful Boys And Girls
2. Life Before Aesthetics
3. From Here On Out
4. Carry The Weight
5. Isn’t It Poetry?
6. Catholic Girl
B Side
1. Song Of Songs
2. If You Are The Writer
3. One More Day
4. Chesapeake Watershed
5. Carry The Weight (Acoustic)
6. Two and a Glass Rose (LP Bonus Track)
Burnt Toast Vinyl is proud to release the vinyl version of Denison Witmer’s new album,Carry the Weight. btv and Witmer have had a special relationship since meeting in 1997 when btv’s Scott Hatch designed Witmer’s self-released version of his Safe Away debut. The partnership resulted in a re-issue of Safe Away (2000) on cd and deluxe 180g LP version (2007), as well as the full-lengths Of Joy and Sorrow (2001) and Philadelphia Songs (2002), the eps The ’80s (2001) and River Bends (2002), and a special mail-order only Live release (2003). The vinyl version includes alternate cover artwork, a special LP only bonus track, and a coupon for a free mp3 download of the album and bonus track.

Denison Witmer doesn’t care if people like his new album or not: “I just want them to think I am being honest with them and that I made a valiant effort.” And if listeners happen to notice that Carry the Weight is also a beautifully produced, thoughtful nod to the laid-back ’70s California pop he’s long cherished, the 30-something Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter would be just delighted. But mostly Witmer wants people to embrace hope—something that’s easier than might first seem possible with a soundtrack this polished and assured for inspiration. Songs such as the gently affirmative “From Here On Out” and “Chesapeake Watershed,” the album’s gently emphatic title track, and the chiming, charming sing-along Luddite anthem, “Life Before Aesthetics” mark Carry The Weight as a classic—for fans old and new.

For this, his seventh release, Witmer teamed up with Blake Wescott—noted producer of albums by The Posies, Sarah Shannon and Damien Jurado, among others, and drummer for Pedro the Lion. Previously the Witmer and Wescott worked together on Witmer’s Of Joy And Sorrow, but Witmer—a veteran of home-studio recording for nearly a decade—was eager to record at a professional studio. “I’ve never liked the idea of making the same record twice,” he states. “I consciously seek out ways to change the sound and arrangements from album to album.”

What made recording Carry the Weight so special to Witmer was the opportunity to work at the London Bridge Studio in Seattle, where Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love and Pearl Jam’s Ten were recorded. “I wanted to make a record on the same equipment they used,” he explains. “It was really fun to have access to a uninterrupted recording environment, first-class equipment, and instruments I can’t afford—like a $40,000 grand piano. Blake encouraged me to take the leap into structuring a project from start to finish in a way that would allow me to maximize my time and budget, as well as get me into a bigger studio to see what could be done.”

Dollars and fancy gear aside, what emerged from Witmer’s sessions with Blake is surely the modest troubadour’s strongest and most cohesive album thus far. The pair’s shared veneration of the music of such luminaries as Carole King, Jackson Browne and Leonard Cohen—plus Wescott’s technical know-how—served Witmer’s new batch of wistful, unpretentious tunes most admirably. “Blake knows the records I love in and out, and he knows how to recreate the sounds we love from those records. We’re been able to push and pull each other without a lot of drama,” Witmer says, “and the outcome has always been something we both feel great about.”

Though much of Carry the Weight was written on the road over the last few years, with certain aspects of songs and arrangements developing over time, he’s quick to admit that, to him, there is no such thing as the definitive version of any song—recorded or live. It’s all about “the moment” for Witmer: “I try not to get things too figured out before I get to the studio,” he continues, “because I like the element of surprise. There’s a lot of freedom in letting go of the ‘perfect version of this song’ style of recording and just embracing the process of it all… What’s captured is a time and place, and whatever feeling that comes from that.”

Though Witmer doesn’t have a band, per se—he usually tours as a solo acoustic act—close friends called in to make Carry the Weight resonate with the sort warmth and fellowship that only comes from a strong affinity and shared aesthetic: “Everyone involved in this project came together in a natural way,” he relates. As before, Witmer’s lilting voice and deceptively straightforward guitar are the bedrock on which the album is built, but a confident sonic expansiveness is achieved through the perfectly conceived contributions of his chosen fellow travelers: Noah Harris, who plays piano and sings; Rosie Thomas, a friend whose most recent record Witmer co-produced, and who here graces several songs with her luscious vocals; Jeff Shoop (Ester Drang, Sufjan Stevens, Rosie Thomas), a guitarist/keyboardist and former tourmate; and drummer James McAlister (Ester Drang, Sufjan Stevens), longtime friend, collaborator and fellow player with Witmer in Sufjan Stevens’ “Michigan Militia” band.

Though never forced or falsely cheerful, Carry the Weight offers a very humanistic, transcendental message—one that was a revelation to the songwriter himself, who describes the last few years of his life as “rather difficult.” The main difference between the new disc and Are You A Dreamer? (Witmer’s last full-length, from 2005), Witmer admits, is that he wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful when he started writing songs that eventually became Carry the Weight. “Whether it was the political deterioration of our country, watching terrible things happen to good people, or the repeated mistakes I was making in my own life,” Witmer confides, “I had given in to a lot of pessimism. Carry the Weight became an argument with myself about whether or not the hope I have left is real—or just idealistic naiveté. I’m happy to say that hope won the argument.”

“Can’t you see how much I’m trying?” asks Witmer on the album’s haunting closer, “One More Day.” Anyone who has a heart surely will.

 

 

btv090 steven r. smith : Floor of the Sky one-sided LP

steven r. smith
floor of the sky (btv090)
Buy Online | one-sided LP

Track listing:
A Side
1. Where the World Went
2. Ely
3. Peeled Stick for a Cane
4. Dust Blindness
5. Skeleton Horses
6. Long Scrape of Light

Initial conversations about the one-sided LP began around steven r. smithʼs work with Hala Strana and Eastern European music with a common love of Woven Hand. steven r. smith began working on the one-sided LP in 2008 and sent an early draft. The timing for release wasn’t right, so smith took advantage of the extra time re-working the songs, updating the recordings and even adding a track. Many difficulties ensued getting an etching accomplished. Our friend Tim Hoover saved the day initially, but the design required three different sets of etchings after problems getting a successful test pressing. The final etching was lost at the pressing plant for nearly seven months.

So, finally, after several delays, Burnt Toast Vinyl is proud to announce that this recording is now available in 2012. Floor of the Sky is the latest addition to the btv series of one-sided LPs which has featured such artists as Damien Jurado, Early Day Miners, Aspera, Emperor X, Isolation Years, Mt. Eerie, Efterklang, Yume Bitsu, Ester Drang, and more. Itʼs six songs spanning nineteen minutes of intricate guitar-based instrumentals that rise from ambiance to roaring, related to steven r. smithʼs solo output without falling into any sort of categorization. Itʼs experimental and ambient, sprawling without becoming monotonous.

American multi-instrumentalist steven r. smith has been releasing a steady stream of solo records for well over a decade as well as playing in various improvisational groups including Mirza, Thuja, Hala Strana, and most recently Ulaan Khol. This music has ranged from sparse solo guitar improvisations to Hala Stranaʼs re-workings of Eastern European traditional folk tunes to the dense, psychedelic fuzz guitar workouts of Ulaan Khol. Floor of the Sky was recorded in smithʼs California based Worstward Studios on all analog equipment.

Musically, smithʼs work over the years could be summed up as a struggle to contain a series of opposites: light and darkness, sorrow and joy, despair and hope. smith has recorded for numerous labels including Immune Recordings, Important Records, Catsup Plate, Soft Abuse, Emperor Jones, Last Visible Dog, Jewelled Antler, Digitalis, and Darla.

“one of Americaʼs great hidden artists.” – Dusted Magazine

“Smithʼs cinematic sound taps into a huge well of American music and simultaneously forges ahead with fruitful experimentation, clearing new ground.” – Ptolemaic Terrascope

“Smith [has a] deft ability to extort haunting beauty from the strings of modified instruments, bowing, scraping and plucking his way through” – Boomkat

“a rich and washed out soundscape of wheezing melancholy melodies all wrapped up in a dense sonic fog…plenty dark and enigmatic, lovely and mysterious.” – Aquarius