Bosque Brown have been quietly working on their sophomore full-length for the past 15 months with producer Chris Flemmons (Baptist Generals) in Denton, TX. Baby features a fuller sound and more expansive instrumentation than previous releases. The Bosque Brown debut, Plays Mara Lee Miller, was recorded in a few short days on relatively few takes and a follow up ep, Cerro Verde, which features lead singer Mara Miller singing over her sparse guitar playing. Baby benefits from the band’s ability to record close to home and take as much time as needed to finish this sophomore full-length. The process began with several home recorded demo songs and the band began to play them, adding parts and adjusting their contributions. Baby becomes a natural outgrowth of Bosque Brown playing together as a live band, the band taking their time to find the right sounds, adding things in, taking things away, and letting the songs grow under Flemmons’ watchful guidance.
Vocals are a focal point of Baby with these vocals, often Miller’s vocals doubled up or harmonizing with her sister Gina, contrasting with varying percussive sounds from the drums, piano, and keyboard. Drummer Winston Chapman and Flemmons, himself a longtime drummer, experimented with prepared drums, mic placements, and recording techniques to color the percussion during the recording process. Many failed experiments gave birth to solidified versions of the songs as the drums coalesced with the vocals and other instrumentation. Acappella tracks with heavily layered vocals and echoing reverberation borrow from the sacred harp tradition and break up Baby into four segments. This reverb collapses into close vocal phrasings for other album tracks that gradually add in thick instrumentation. Lush and soaring keyboards, organs, pedal steel, and effects blend with varying drum and percussion rhythms which pace the songs as singer Mara Miller’s vocals are met with harmonies from her sister Gina Milligan and guitarist Jeremy Buller. Flemmons’ production selectively tweaks room effects and recording techniques to capture both the intimacy and expanse of his home recording space.
In her often personal lyrics, Miller reflects back on her small-town Texas upbringing as an adult coming to terms with that rich history after moving away. On “O River”, references to old time hymn lyrics mix with the imagery of a dark and cold flowing river, perhaps a subtle reference to Texas’ Bosque River, the band’s namesake. “White Dove” and “Soft Love” bookend Baby, opening the record with a sense of dark desperation and finding a hopefulness in her love, moving past the ambivalence of the three part “On and Off” which punctuates the flow of the album with a tossing and turning of ideas.
The artwork for Baby was done by Mara’s longtime friends Sean Horton and Melissa Mudry who she knew from small-town life. 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 Texas and portray the themes of Baby in Sean and Melissa’s eyes.
Burnt Toast Vinyl discovered Mara Miller through folk singer Damien Jurado who met Miller on tour. Jurado was acting as a bit of a freelancing A&R rep, funneling prospective acts and demos to the label. Arrangements were made for Mara and her husband and fellow bandmate Ryan to travel to Seattle and record Plays Mara Lee Miller. This debut was released in 2005 and Mara and Ryan were 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, bolstered by Miller’s striking stage presence. Plays Mara Lee Miller found its way onto many Top 10 of 2005 lists, including top release of 2005 by the Dallas Observer, and garnered the band several local music award nominations. 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 Jumping Off Bridges independent film soundtrack which debuted at 2007’s SXSW film festival. Bosque Brown have headlined their own shows and have played with bands including Midlake, Two Gallants, John Vanderslice, Will Johnson, the Baptist Generals, Bobby Bare Junior, Damien Jurado, Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jolie Holland, and The National. Now, Bosque Brown are ready to emerge from the recording process and share their new songs with the world.