By Brandon Henry
Duluth’s folk songstress Mary Bue plugs in and delivers a powerful 3rd record with Holy Bones. Throughout the album, hints of Kathleen Edwards and Jenny Lewis simmer at the surface, but these 8 songs showcase the depth of Bue’s songwriting and ability to marry it to driving hook-laden guitar rock. The album is a personal journey that rings universal, that to forge your own future you must extrapolate the lessons from the highs and lows of the past. A tall task to take on, but Holy Bones pulls it off with a mastery few songwriters attain.
From the blistering opener that yearns for simpler times, “Candy” to the anthemic closer “A Million Moths” the listener takes a spiritual ride reflecting on past missteps in order to face the challenge of the future. Mary’s soaring vocals and tightly crafted songs carry this theme with a pop sensibility that is exhilarating and at times reflective.
The ninety seconds of “Cheribum” pairs nicely with “Holy Bones” and ties together the overarching theme of the record. While the “little pirhanas” of the past can eat away at your heart, the title track teaches the listener to “stand in the holy bones” of the past. A hard lesson made more palatable by Bue’s hooky and energetic delivery.
The personal journey turns reflective on “Hearts Desire” as the narrator faces her own doubts of pursuing her dreams, a common reality for anyone who has taken this leap. As soon as you’re sure what you’re doing is right, there are plenty of people who will dispense their advice to just “be a lawyer” or “a doctor.”
One of the more cleverly written songs comes midway through on “Archeology.” The song is a deceptively melancholy song that traces the story of a fading relationship through a couple’s recycling bin. What is revealed is that the true nature of their broken down love is tied up more in the energy they put into endless nights, bottles of Dos Equis and wine than a love for each other.
The album takes a darker turn with the song “Veal,” but only highlights the strength of Bue’s songwriting. Anyone who can work “foie gras” into a sing-able refrain is certainly in the upper-echelon of lyricism. “Veal” is sung from the perspective of a young calf being raised for this carnivorous delicacy. Lamenting that he will never get to “jump over the moon,” the song forces the listener to reexamine his or her own eating habits (if they’re a meat eater).
Holy Bones wraps big lessons and hard truths in a catchy blend of pop, folk, and rock. It’s a reminder that while sometimes our skeletons dance in our closets with a little too much gusto, they should still be invited to the party.
Mary Bue, Holy Bones, Kathleen Edwards, Jenny Lewis, Duluth, singer-songwriter