It’s approximately 3:45 am on a crisp, spring morning in a sleepy town known as Argyle, which lies in the woods in and around the backroads and over dilapidated bridges just outside of Denton, TX. Five friends who are as close to coming apart at the seams as they are to finishing the work on the ten songs they’ve been grappling with for over a year are staring at the soundboard hoping that last take of their song “Commander, Whatever” was the one that captured the magic they’ve been so desperately trying to harness for the last three hours so they could finally get some sleep as the cicadas are almost as loud through the ceiling as the space heater whirring in the corner of the room. The band is Pleasant Grove and the album they are making is “Auscultation of the Heart”, which was only released in Europe in 2002 on the German imprint, Glitterhouse Records.
Upon it’s release, AOTH was heralded by both MOJO and UNCUT magazines as an “Americana classic” as well as in publications in and around Europe. The unified opinion was these five young guys from Dallas, TX had somehow tapped into something truly unique and inspiring. They embarked on multiple tours to adoring fans in Germany, Switzerland and Austria as well as crisscrossing the US a few times putting in the miles and inevitably putting wear and tear on the already vulnerable spirit of the quintet.
The story is not unfamiliar to those who spend most of their time in and around the music industry. A band digs deep and manages to create something truly cathartic where they are able to express their thoughts and images into one cohesive story that is their album and then is expected to travel endlessly to promote it, inevitably burning out the spark that was ignited in the first place to create and play music together and then slowly, ultimately, fading away.
Whether it’s their stubborn nature or their earnestness to never give up the dream of playing music together, the collective known as Pleasant Grove never truly went away and released “The Art of Leaving” on Badman Recording Co. in 2005 and “The Heart Contortionist” in 2016, and now, currently have plans to write and play together to make another album as well as to celebrate the re release of AOTH by playing it in its entirety at the Kessler Theater on May 26th, accompanied by their longtime friends, Bosque Brown.
To see and hear the results of whatever culminates from any future recordings remains to be seen but we are definitely hopeful for more music from this collective. But for now, let’s go back to the early 00’s, back through the winding roads and over the dilapidated bridges, back to those woods in Argyle, Tx and listen to the cicadas buzzing overhead.
“Auscultation of the Heart” is out now on vinyl only on Solid Systems Limited and distributed by Border Music in Europe.
A slow and luscious turn toward wall-of-sound, “You Said” announces the return of Bosque Brown. The song has traveled some distance to meet us. It’s the first song Mara Lee Miller ever wrote, more than two decades ago, before Damien Jurado found in her “the heartache of Kitty Wells and the lonesome howl of Robert Johnson,” before she was married at 21 years old in rural Texas. Sparse arrangements on those first releases bowed to the singer. Lush new sonics enthrone the voice of a songwriter on “You Said.” Jeremy Buller (synths, guitar, production) treats her vocals like Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde treated Elizabeth Fraser’s for Cocteau Twins, coating them in metallics and warping the air around each melody with precarious noise. Here Miller returns to herself after a long interruption.
We meet two artists again and for the first time: Jeremy Buller (Sophia Duccini, Sarah Jaffe), the sought after multi-instrumentalist now devoted to greater sonic engineering, and Miller, who’s heard her songs anew in films like David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun and laid down the burden of other people’s secrets.
Co-producer and engineer Alex Bhore (ex-This Will Destroy You, Halo Infinite) completed Bosque Brown’s vision for the arrangements on “You Said” and a forthcoming EP.
Miller’s songs have been fiercely protected and quietly celebrated since 2005. Bosque Brown’s first release evoked starlit roads and shadowy churches of rural Texas. When the four-tracked demo that prefaced Bosque Brown Plays Mara Lee Miller caught the attention of Burnt Toast Vinyl, performance was not Miller’s focus. A band formed in service of the first record and Miller’s seriousness about privacy and process. Miller’s then-husband, her sister, and two friends became Bosque Brown. One of those friends was Buller, then an unknown guitarist whose reverence for Miller’s songs could be felt in the room. He went on to collaborate with Claire Morales, Quilts, OK Sweetheart and other artists whose work was clarified in his gentle, careful ear as a producer and collaborator.
Bosque Brown had one more release on Burnt Toast Vinyl, Baby, and the self-released Us and Little Sea crystallized a partnership between Buller and Miller. Together they have developed a sonic language that carries lifetimes since they met.