Review of Bosque Brown's album Baby
In a refreshingly idiosyncratic touch, it's unclear whether Bosque Brown is in fact Texan Mara Lee Miller's band, or alter-ego, or both. What is clear on the basis of 'Baby' is that the Lone Star state is good for producing more than an endless conveyor belt of Nashville wannabees and bearded misogynists ZZ Top.
Described once as 'Painfully shy', Miller's upbringing had more than a touch of the rustic, growing up in the backwater of Stephenville, surrounded courtesy of her parents by the of sounds of both musicals and madrigals. Not clear on her future, it was escaping at eighteen to the relative sophistication of Denton to attend college which became the point at which her songwriting catharsis began. After a period of gestation there her gutsy, heavily accented delivery and plaintive songs - which straddle the divide between folk and country of the non-rhinestone persuasion - came to the attention of critically acclaimed maven Damien Jurado. Adopting her as a protege, the result was Miller/Brown's debut 'Sings Mara Lee Miller' and now we have this, her sophomore effort.
Given that much of Baby is delivered either acapella (The various parts of triptych On and Off, Oh River) or with just a piano or geetar for company (White Dove, Phone Call, Train Song) it's not unreasonable to conclude that Miller would like us to focus on her voice. Compared variously - and not unreasonably - to Chan Marshall and Hope Sandoval, it has an odd quality of evocation, one minute conjuring up an image of a desert road, the next of a freezing, starlit night as it pitches somewhere constantly between warble and torch song.
So is Baby any good? Well, there's something appealingly childish in the aforementioned Train Song, although it won't be getting much airplay in the Great Smoky Mountain Theme Park. Elsewhere though the piano arrangements are a little obvious, lending the likes of This Town the feel of a Sunday morning parlour singalong. The one moment of true inspiration comes on So Loud, an incongruous slice of gamboling 60's space-rock which appears given it's compatriots frankly to have come from almost nowhere. With that as the sole rabbit from Miller's ten gallon hat, whilst Baby will no doubt make fans rejoice there's little else here to push a level of commendation far beyond 'Interesting'. Now, where's that copy of 'Gimme All Your Lovin'....'