Hurricane Katrina tests but does not shake the faith of Mara Lee Miller, who finds solace and musical inspiration in the storm.
Mara Lee Miller, a Texas-based songwriter who records under the name Bosque Brown, has a lovely voice, warm and tinged with soulful slides, incapable of a dishonest or overly elaborate phrase. Like Jolie Holland or M. Ward, she sounds like she belongs to an earlier age, her wavery melodies crackling with sepia-toned simplicity. Cerro Verde, a short EP written as she faced down Hurricane Katrina at her parents' home in Stephenville, Texas, last year, has less of the calm, more of the emotional angst of last year's debut Mara Lee Miller Sings Bosque Brown. Here, all four songs are bare and stripped, a throb of guitar chords the only accompaniment. Accordingly, Miller's voice takes on a rawer, more immediate quality, rising to a wail at times, softened to a lullaby at others. "It may / It may / It may be okay", she sings in the EP's closing cut, with something like a sob buried in the blues-y cadence. Opener "This House", too, has a turbulent undercurrent, the howling winds implied in its emphatic guitars. The songs are wonderfully evocative, weaving bits of family history, devout Christian faith, and genuine anxiety into stark portraits of an anxious time.