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 Miller, Baby
features a fuller sound and more expansive instrumentation. Where
Mara Lee was recorded in a few short days with relatively
few takes, Baby benefits 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.
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.
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
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