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