Music

Mary Bragg's 'Violets As Camouflage' Delivers Strength and Empowerment

Photo: Laura E. Partain / Missing Piece Group

Nashville singer-songwriter Mary Bragg revels in her emotional intensity as Violets As Camouflage auspiciously finds empowerment in vulnerability.

Violets As Camouflage
Mary Bragg

Tone Tree Music

1 March 2019

Acclaimed Nashville singer-songwriter, Mary Bragg is incontestable and over the naysayers. Her fourth studio album, Violets As Camouflage, released from Tone Tree Music, is as candid as it is brazen. Bragg revels in her emotional intensity as Violets As Camouflage auspiciously finds empowerment within vulnerability.

The album reveals the ubiquity of the inauthenticity eschewing self-worth and obscuring an individual's true nature. In "I Thought You Were Somebody Else", Bragg addresses the identification of a mistake requiring reparation. She laments, "I went and made a fool of myself / Sorry / I thought you were somebody else." But according to Bragg, accountability is necessary to rebuild trust. Yet, here she is relearning to trust herself. A sparse and languid song, the limited instrumentation renders the image of Bragg alone, ruminating. The song opens with "Hello there / How are you", casting the lyrics as her inner consciousness. Her thoughts deconstruct the past and analyze her delusion. Within this dialogue, Bragg reflects on disingenuousness and the emotional guises eroding authenticity. Without question, this is the root reference for the album's title. A violet's prettiness will distract and blind the flaws. And for Bragg, unearthing those flaws can be painful but perpetually rewarding.

As such, Bragg believes in an individual's capacity to determine their agency. "Fight", in particular, is a summons for the courage to "Make the choice / To trust the words." She spotlights perseverance when her voice ascends on the lyrics "I want to try". Relying on moxie and committing to steadfastness are essential for Bragg. Even if it turns out badly, as demarcated in "Fool". The juxtaposition of "Fight" and "Fool" suggests confronting trepidation will develop courage, never before. Bragg attests to recognizing perseverance and fortitude despite calamity.

Bragg finds fault in playing it safe and sees taking risks as advantageous. In "The Right Track", she is adamant about honoring successes, even the smallest ones. She reminds, "It's gonna feel like you're a little lost / Before you find it... Crawling / Stalling / Coming in last." Bragg's illustrates negativity's imprint on thwarting forward progression. As for many, the path is only clear in retrospect while fixation on failure is unsound. Unquestionably, this is as much an admonition to herself as to her audience.

Accepting optimism is central to Violets As Camouflage. In "Fixed", Bragg dismantles skewed self-perceptions. She considers how children, especially young girls, are conditioned to idealized superficiality and unhealthy body images. Bragg exhibits the social messages controlling weight, affirming beauty standards, and undermining self-confidence. In an interview with PopMatters' Michael Bialis, Bragg recalls the anxiety created by social pressures: "that's the first memory I have of feeling overweight, not pretty, and judged for my appearance; I was eight years old." Bragg decries "Starting early / They'll see another kid on roller skates / They'll see another mannequin they can decorate." A clear narrative parallel between her life and art. Yet Bragg turns the track to become an affirmation of identity. She tells those wallowing in the toxic din, "You can make your own light shine / Beautiful star / Just as you are." Her reminder to "Skip the fairy tale / You don't need to be fixed" is a moving plea to reject insecurity and embrace self-worth.

Bragg's wistful country energy radiates throughout Violets As Camouflage. Her twang extenuates the singular steely guitar in "Faint of Heart". The jaunty instrumentation underscoring Bragg's rich vocals in "Trouble Me Anytime" draw similarities to Patsy Cline. Much as classic country exploited sexually ambiguous lyrics, Bragg is sly when she skirts double-entendre and asks, "Trust me, honey, it will be just fine / If you make a little trouble with me." Finally, the full-band on "Runaway Town" conjures the honky-tonks while pushing toward big-box country without selling out.

In the press release for Violets As Camouflage, Bragg mentions she grew up in Georgia, "where it's not super common to come right out and say what you feel or talk openly about your intimate emotional experiences". Yet, her honesty and openness are the album's heart. In a way, Bragg's earnestness on Violets As Camouflage is radical in its delivery of strength and empowerment.

8


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.