Mary Bragg Reflects Glowing Ambience at The Warming House

Minneapolis Gets a Little Southern Belle Inspiration

It’s kind of too bad that the economies of scale are so important for artists like Mary Bragg to make a living at the craft of songwriting and performance, because there is nothing so special in the music world as the small-crowd venue that connects an artist and fan so intimately.  But a steady stream of small venues, unless an artist is well-to-do, is a long-term plan to the poorhouse and a forgotten career.  Many have tried.  Many have failed.  The determined succeed. Bragg seems determined.

Nevertheless, the Warming House felt like one of those living room concerts I’ve visited in Franklin, Tennessee. Nashville artist Mary Bragg let her delightful southern persona and signature music shine from the shiplap sided and ambient lit stage.

Fresh off a two-hour songwriting workshop before her show, she was more self-conscious of her stage presence knowing that some eager writers were not only there for the entertainment, but also alert to her song structure and delivery.  This was not to be one of those “do as I say, not as I do” moments. She is decidedly qualified to speak from experience on song creation. In the twelve years since she released her first project, Sugar, she has released 3 additional full albums, including her latest, Violets as Camouflage.

Bragg opened with a series of songs from the new record, including “I Thought You Were Someone Else,” a tune that that has a Patsy Cline-esque appeal to me for some reason. The song is modern, but elements of the structure and vocal style put me wonderfully in the 1950’s.

She also played “The Right Track,” a tune assembled from words of hope for anyone with a dream that is laced with self-doubt, but ultimately leads to victory after paying one’s dues. (She has a pretty incredible video out that beautifully captures a production version of this song).

She continued with “A Little Less” and a very personal song, “Faint of Heart.” This tune was an experiment in the teller’s point of view. In this case, she chose her mother’s perspective. The story weaves anecdotal lines from the family print shop business and struggles during an economic shift. Words include:

“We bought generic coffee

from a dusty bottom shelf
I sold sour cream pound cakes

on the side to pay the bills
Making supper out of nothin’

sure was hard as hell
But man did it sing,

when we rang that dinner bell”

Faint of Heart by Mary Bragg

The Lights of Broadway Go Out

Take a southern girl and plant her in New York City for a decade, and what do you get? The song “Lucky Strike” was one summary from her time on the music scene in the Big Apple. The lyrics of that song poignantly daydream about getting that lucky break to “pull me out from the back of the line.”

Humble, yet proud of her southern roots, Mary told us that she was named after her Grandma Mary Powell Bragg, a hopeless romantic. Her close relationship inspired her to write “More Than You Do,” a cautionary set of words to remind us all that we “never know how many days you have left.”

Bragg’s adequate guitar skills were enough to provide the accompaniment she needed, but her vocals were the star of the performance. She possesses such a tonal quality and superior range that some songbirds within earshot would be jealous. Likewise, she knows how to provide an appropriate tempo in her song designs to permit proper reflection during the song. This happened especially well in “Rescue,” which left her wiping her eyes afterward.

Mary Bragg of Nashville is on stage a The Warming House in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mary Bragg served up several introspective songs to Minneapolis at The Warming House

On a brighter note, Bragg’s silly-bone is connected to the word-bone, and she visited the song “The Say When,” a whimsical tune she wrote with her partner in rhyme, Becky Warren. It was penned with visual details that are on par:

“The owner still tends bar
Serves a stiff sidecar
He spends the whole night chewing
On an unlit two buck cigar”

The Say When by Mary Bragg and Becky Warren

What Mary Bragg didn’t tell us is that the name of that silly band Warren and she have is called The Reckless Electric. When you’re ready for some damn good fun and senseless dancing, check out their humorous lyric video, “Ice Cream and Liquor.” If you don’t crack a smile, check your pulse.

Keep up with Mary Bragg‘s music and get on her mailing list. She’s back in town at least once a year. She loves Minneapolis, cause ‘you’re smart and complex.’ And hearing her call someone “Honey” alone will be worth the visit and price of admission.

Written by J. Allen Wood

I switched gears from a successful 20-plus year truck driving career to a more interesting digital media field after finishing my BFA in New Media at Indiana University South Bend in May 2016, complemented by minors in creative writing, marketing, and business management. I am pleased to put my creativity to use during this digital renaissance as a casual music photojournalist, when I’m not creating digital or music content in my small studio.

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