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.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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