Karaugh Brown
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Karaugh Brown

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The best kept secret in music

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"Karaugh Brown is a name to remember"

Karaugh Brown is a name to remember for future reference. It's certainly an unusual name -- not Brown, obviously -- but it will be for her writing that she should become famous. This CD has 11 tracks, all of which appear to be written by the young lady. These are not your run-of-the-mill love songs or contemporary comment pieces. Each has a literary quality that betrays an interest in language and its use. Even the title of track 1 will fascinate: "The Flame & the Smoulder." The track is rather enigmatic but is worth a listen even just for the final line, "Through the topaz of your eyes." "Still Love" is a song of love and distance. "I pray three times a day, once for my love three oceans away." These are lyrics that deserve a much wider audience. The title track of this album continues to tease us with the lyrics. It is a joy to listen to but one can never be sure what we are hearing. The song seems to be written in Venice but lines like "I tiptoed around scared to be an American" made me long for liner notes explaining the background to these inventive songs. Again with "San Antonio" -- I felt this song would mean so much more if I could understand the background. Here as in other songs the language is that of poetry. "All I see are angels and acrobats, married to the ground." "Swallow" is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Who could ignore lyrics like "out of real and into reeling"? If one track on this CD should get a mass audience it has to be "One Two Three." Even if you never buy the CD seek out the lyrics of this one track. It is fantastic in content and in execution. This is one of those true "album releases." It is not hit-single material. These are strong songs, not listened to by the mass radio audiences, and I hope that such neglect will not discourageBrown. Here is intelligent English, thoughtful words and feeling for emotions. One Round Orange is poetry for 2003. - Rambles written by Nicky Rossiter published 12 July 2003
- www.rambles.net


"Karaugh Brown smolders on her first full-length release"

Karaugh Brown smolders on her first full-length release, One Round Orange. Many folk musicians amp it up at the recording studio, but "One Round Orange" hews to acoustic production values. Brown borrows surviving members of the 90s rock band Morphine, which may account for some measure of the album's skeletal sound, although she sounds like this live and solo: dark, sometimes ominous, spare, heavy on bass and Brown's oscillating guitar, with muffled drums. This is a real headphones album: it has an unparalleled intimacy. Brown's songs are poems, slow to mid-tempo meditations set to music. Her sinuous voice becomes cutting just when it seems at its most delicate. The emphasis is on the mood and the words, not the notes. The album is filled with details about places around the world -- cathedrals in Venice, Santa Fe, Florence, Buffalo. It also contains striking imagery, as this picture of futility in the tune "Contessina": "Down in the quarries, we bring a canary/and he sings and he sings tillhe can sing no more." Brown also has a bent for the allegorical and elliptical. Not knowing what is going on in her songs can become frustrating, but mystery is preferable to the transparent narcissism in the songs of too many other folksingers. Her use of oblique storytelling and attention to dynamics recalls the early work of Suzanne Vega. "One Two Three" covers upper-class domestic violence in a nursery-rhyme style. The somber "Katherine" quietly pulsates as it describes a suicidal woman in gothic language (her "blood is always warm") reminiscent of Tori Amos' first album. "Swallow" retells the Bluebeard story, perfectly marrying Brown's lyricism, taste for the gory detail, close focus, and ethereality: "They weren't kidding about towers and skeleton keys," she comments, with understated sarcasm. The album's distinguishing feature -- its moody, cyclical, dream-nightmare quality-- is unrelenting. There's little variation in "One Round Orange." All the songs sound the same, quiet and sparse. But subtle differences emerge occasionally, such as the bare use of harmony in "One Two Three" and the feverish rhythm of "Swallow." "Patriot" is comparatively upbeat, as the singer, sounding passionate and choky, reminds someone: "I am not your patriot, I am your lover standing outside your door." "San Antonio" is catchy and fanciful, heralding hope in the form of "angels and acrobats." Some may find One Round Orange monotonous, but this spooky, deeply personal album is unusual to merit close attention. The best songs are irresistibly compelling. As she sings, "You have to crawl to get this far inside."-Danielle Dreilinger
- WBUR 91.9fm


"She will remind some of young Suzanne Vega"

Bill Morrissey helped put Ellis Paul on the map when he produced his first CD in the early 90’s. He hoped to do the same by producing One Round Orange, the just-released debut disc for promising new Boston songwriter Karaugh Brown. She will remind some of young Suzanne Vega with her stark melodicism, literary sense, and brooding persona.
Morrissey complements her haunting austerity with spare, lyric-focused production. For more information, go to www.karaughbrown.com.’
-Scott Alarik, The Boston Globe - Boston Globe


"Karaugh Brown can captivate a crowd"

Young folksinger Karaugh Brown seems utterly comfortable on stage— as long as she’s performing her songs. It’s those moments between numbers that reveal her coltish streak, when her conversations with the audience are punctuated by nervous breaths. But Brown needn’t worry. Her CD-release show at Club Passim a couple Wednesdays back proved she can captivate a crowd. And before that, she’d already won over one of New England folk music’s toughest and most discerning fans: Bill Morrissey.
Morrissey—whose albums, decades of performing, and literate writing have earned him a reputation as the region’s folksinger laureate— produced Brown’s new One Round Orange (on One Room, and available (www.karaughbrown.com). She gave him a copy of her debut EP, Dresses and Dirt (One Room), in the spring of 2000 after meeting him at Club Passim, the longstanding Harvard Square folk institution where she regularly performs.
" She must have been 19 or 20 at the time," Morrissey recalls. "What I heard was not there yet, but there were certain lines that were very intelligent and perceptive. So I called her and said, ‘You’re not there yet, but you’ve really got something.’ She asked if she could open for me, so over the next year and a half I would catch her set, and I saw tremendous growth. Her writing kept developing at an astronomical rate. It was really exciting. When she started talking about doing an album, I asked her if I could produce, and she was up for it."
The sessions came in bursts at Cambridge’s High-N-Dry Studios, with Morphine and Twinemen drummer Billy Conway, a veteran of recordings with Morrissey, engineering and occasionally lending his sticks. Meanwhile, Brown—who graduated from BU in May 2001—was nominated for a Boston Music Award and established her own upward trajectory in the New England folk scene.
"Bill really took the lead on the instrumentation and helped me sort through my demo tapes to pick the songs we needed to record," she explains. "Keeping in mind the fact that I wanted to keep it sparse, he suggested just a bass and drums. He suggested Dave Henderson play bass, since Dave has worked with Bill before." After the recording was completed, Brown listened to the results and opted to invite Sean Staples to add mandolin on several cuts.
At Passim, in her first concert with Henderson and Staples, Brown slipped into her songs with an idiosyncratic acoustic-guitar-picking style that’s half-blues-based and half-impulse, with resonating bass notes offering a stark throbbing contrast to the spartan melodic patterns. Then her warm voice would kick in, its soft, cottony edges working with near-impressionist strokes the character studies that make up the bulk of her numbers.
Whereas Morrissey is a direct storyteller, Brown is more an arranger of images and implications. That contrast in their writing is something he found appealing. In Brown’s lyrics, candlelight and smoke reveal the details of a relationship ("Flame and the Smoulder"), a lover’s faith parallels faith in a cause ("Patriot"), and colors signify shifting moods and desires ("Buffalo"). The spareness of her fingerpicking and the way she tugs syllables and tosses occasional cries and twists into her singing add shades of melancholy; live that’s balanced by occasional bursts of beauty from Staples’s mandolin and Henderson’s sparse, sensitive propulsion. If anything, her Club Passim performance improved on the reserved delivery of One Round Orange. She stretched and improvised vocal phrases and occasionally, as in the throbbing, staccato arrangement of "Katherine," dug hard into her guitar.
Brown will return to Club Passim next month, opening for Ellis Pail on New Year’s Eve; and Gloucester’s Rachel McCartney, who opened for Brown, will headline on January 15. McCartney is also an emerging talent worth noting. She has a clear, powerful voice that she can push into a strong, effective soprano. Her songs frequently dwelt on self-analysis, but that worked live thanks to her spirited delivery and the occasional use of rock-guitar changes to spike her slashing, resonant strumming. Her sole weakness was a tendency to let her tunes collapse into a close and then look away from the audience, as if apprehensive about its reaction—a needless concern. At this point in their careers, Brown and McCartney both have nothing to fear, and everything to gain.’
–Ted Drozdowski, The Boston Phoenix
- Boston Phoenix


Discography

Favorite Daughter (One Room 2005), LP; One Round Orange (One Room 2002), LP; Dresses and Dirt (One Room 2000), EP

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

“Favorite Daughter” is the follow-up to Brown’s 2002 Bill Morrissey-produced release, “One Round Orange,” which prompted a nomination from the Boston Music Awards for Best New Singer/Songwriter that same year. Brown was critically lauded by Sing Out! magazine, Performing Songwriter magazine and noted as an artist to watch by Scott Alarik of the Boston Globe and Ted Drozdowski of the Boston Phoenix. As a result, Brown was invited to contribute a track from “One Round Orange” to Signature Sounds’ “Respond II” compilation, which included such luminaries as Suzanne Vega, Joan Baez, Ani Difranco and the Indigo Girls.
Karaugh Brown returned to Cambridge’s Hi-N-Dry studio in November of 2004 to record “Favorite Daughter,” with co-producers Billy Conway (Twinemen, Morphine) and Dave Westner (Jabe). Sean Staples (Resophonics) came on board to play mandolin and Rob Laurens played bass. The group focused on creating “Favorite Daughter’s” sound, using “One Round Orange” as a starting point.
Brown’s songs have developed into something sophisticated and intensely personal over the past two years. She has begun to explore themes of love and affirmation apart from “One Round Orange’s” focus on mystery and sadness. “Favorite Daughter,” like “One Round Orange,” is suffused with images of classical art and Hopper-esque American landscapes, but it is also an album about family and the inextricable connections of the heart to home, parent and the transformative power of adulthood.
The band has crafted a lush, vivid and haunting music to support Brown’s work. Full of the gritty Americana that birthed her writing voice, “Favorite Daughter” is infectious and real, immediate to the ear and truthful to the head and heart.
Brown began her songwriting career while pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English and Art History at Boston University. Soon after discovering her ability to bring together visually-charged lyrics with unusual yet melodic harmonies, she started attending the open mic night at Harvard Square’s legendary Club Passim. The Boston songwriting community quickly embraced her.

While still attending school, Brown toured the Northeast and produced her first recording effort, an EP called “Dresses and Dirt” (2000). She released the EP on her own label, One Room Records. That summer, she flew to Europe to study history and art in Venice, Italy, guitar in tow. With no amp and only an open guitar case to collect tips, she began singing in the streets and alleyways of Italy. Through that experience she crafted the songs that would later appear on “One Round Orange”. It wasn’t until Brown returned to America, however, that her recording career began to take shape.

Later that summer, she attended a show at Club Passim, where the Grammy-nominated Billy Morrissey was playing. The friendship was immediate with Morrissey asking her to send a copy of her EP to him. Brown and Morrissey found common ground in their love for New England poetry and, within months, he offered to produce her first full-length album.

Morrissey brought on board Billy Conway as engineer and drummer and decided to use Conway’s studio, Hi-N-Dry in Cambridge, MA as their recording headquarters. Morrissey then chose Dave Henderson to join on bass while Brown picked Sean Staples and Kris Delmhorst to play mandolin/bazookie and cello, respectively. The recording was spare, lyric-focused and communicated a sense of longing that reflected Brown’s days in Italy.