Mary Bue: Apple in The Occean

Paul Whyte


Originally from Minnesota, singer/songwriter Mary Bue has done her fair share of touring and living in other places out of the Northland. Last summer Bue returned to Minnesota after living for five years in Seattle. Over that time she had amassed a new set of songs and was eager to get them recorded.
Her new album “Apple in the Ocean” was recorded at the Sacred Heart cathedral by Eric Swanson. The choice of  where to record had been planned by Bue for awhile, “that’s part of the reason I chose to move back, so I could record there,” said Bue who had lived in Duluth for several years while attending college at UMD. The cathedral adds a natural fullness to the sound of the album, where Bue plays a grand piano for most of it and also brings in an organ on certain tracks.
The first track “Mummies” exemplifies the flow of this album that features of layers of vocal harmonies all done by Bue. The piano mixes an often snappy and catchy foundation for her music, while the soft bass lines played by Matt Mobley hold back tastefully. Likewise, Dave Frankenfeld provides solid percussion in the songs where he is featured on drums.
The next track “Savasana Bliss” brings out the emotional and somewhat worldly lyrics that Bue has in this album and most of the other songs I’ve seen her play. In this song she has a way of making a point but expresses it through various images. “fire in Aries, Leo in love, live like a lightening bolt, live like a dove, smoldering headlines of gas and war and fire,” goes a verse of the song.
The track “Beeswax” is a little lighter and seems to border on a country/pop melody line of the vocals. This seems especially true with the chorus of this song. Although it is true that Bue is a singer/songwriter, she puts her own feel into her songs. It’s easy to try to compare Bue to Tori Amos or some Fiona Apple just because she mostly plays piano, but Bue manages approachable songs that are all her.
The song “Valentine” is beautiful and a bit sad. The sentimental feeling of this track is heightened by the violin of Ida Jo who is featured on several other tracks in the album. The next track “Dentistry” is also one of the more emotional songs on the CD and also has violin from Jo.
When asked about the feel of this album, Bue brought up the song “8 Feet of Snow.” The song is about the claustrophobia and dreariness of winter and “emerging from the winter.”  In this song and the on track “Cosmopolitan,” it seems that Bue may be referring to herself in the third person and it’s not always a particularly happy person but certainly an observant one. There is a sitar in “Show” that sits lightly in the mix played by Christian McShane. There is also the chime tones here and there from a glockenspiel.
The titles of the last two albums seem to indicate a theme. Her last album was titled “A Boat With No Oars” and this album is “Apple in the Ocean.” Both represent something floating in a body of water with no controllable direction.
Although every song on the album is filled with truths, the title track “Apple in the Ocean” is certainly one of the most out right revealing tracks and is filled with illustrations and the line, “I crave ending and beginning again,” supports the feel of this album. This song also carries more seriousness versus some of the other tracks that stick to a more standard verse and chorus layout that is a bit poppy at times. This track is a stream of imagery that effectively expresses inner turmoil and growing from it.
The track “Little Bird” is the only song on the album where Bue picks up the guitar. Charlie Parr is credited with playing slide guitar on the song.
The last track, “Maps and Calendars,” Bue makes it pretty clear that in, “in no uncertain terms, I’m a serious girl.” The piano part of this song stands out to me. It plays along with the vocal harmonies wonderfully and it also has a sense of desperation in the lyrics, which goes along with much of the album.
The highlight of this album are the lyrics and Bue’s voice that delivers them. The layers of vocals and vocal harmonies are truly stunning and using the natural reverb of the church as the primary effect used on the vocals creates a unique and consistent feel throughout the album.
The photos of the album which are of Bue in a gown, standing in a river with a basket of apples were taken by local artist and  photographer Ryan Lemahieu.
The album was funded in part through a KickStarter campaign. KickStarter is a website where musicians and artists can barter for funds. For example, someone can donate a certain amount of money in exchange for a card or a CD from the artist.  “I wasn’t planning on doing it,” explained Bue, “but I watched other people doing it and I decided to try it.” People from around the world that Bue didn’t even know and of course people she knew kicked in some money as well. “It was very validating,” said Bue.
Bue has kept her line up of Mobley on bass and Frankenfeld on drums for her live shows. On Thursday, August 2, Bue will be celebrating the release her latest album “Apple in the Ocean” at Teatro Zuccone and will share the stage with Strange Meeting and Kyle Ollah. Later this weekend she will be playing at BradFest in Two Harbor on Saturday. On August 19 Bue will be playing at the Turf Club along with the Brian Just Band and American Rebels. Kyle Maclean of American Rebels laid down some guitar on the album and will play a few tracks with Bue at the Twin Cities show.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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