Postmarked, Pecos Bill is Leaving Texas Round Your Neck

Postmarked, Pecos Bill is Leaving Texas Round Your Neck

I’m humble enough to admit that while I am many things, sadly, “timely” isn’t always one of ’em. There’ve been a few times in recent years when kindly folks have handed me the fruits of their hard work and talent, and I’ve dropped the ball; hell, in a few instances (like this one) I didn’t just drop it, I kicked it over into the next yard, and the angry old guy who lives there wouldn’t give it back.

With that metaphor now fully dead and buried, I’ll recount the history of this thing briefly; Postmarked is the alias of Houston-based photog/musician/writer Marc Brubaker, a guy I’ve known and admired in various efforts for several years now, whatever the medium. I also happen to run into him at nearly every freaking show I go to — which is probably more an effect of me not going to very many shows these days, honestly — and at one of these, last year’s Free Press Summerfest, he made me a present of his brand-new, limited-edition three-song EP, entitled (I think) Pecos Bill is Leaving Texas Round Your Neck.

I gratefully accepted the disc, promised to listen to it and hopefully review it…and then fled the country to spend nearly a month with my wife’s family in London and pretty much blew every single thing I’d intended to do that was related to Summerfest. It’s been more than a year now, and I’m still kicking myself for it, I swear; things just snowballed after I got back to the States, and reviewing things like the Postmarked CD Brubaker gave me got pushed further and further and further off.

All of which is to say that I’m really, really behind on this one, and I hang my head abashedly low for that; sorry, Marc. It’s doubly a shame because I really do like the three songs on here, “Pecos Bill,” “Leaving Texas,” and “Round Your Neck.” It took me a few listens, admittedly, primarily because the voice on first track “Pecos Bill” differs fairly dramatically from Brubaker’s regular speaking voice, and it took me a little getting used to.

Once I got past the initial shock, though, I found myself seriously loving the songs, which tread an indie-folk path somewhere between the hyperliterate desperation of The Mountain Goats and the mumbled Southern-Gothic vibe of early Iron and Wine. The instrumentation is as minimal as it gets, just a guitar and voice for most of this (with a subtle keyboard and gorgeous female duet vocal partway through “Pecos Bill” as a nice little added touch), and it works well with the lonesome, melancholy, inexplicably Texan-sounding lyricism.

There’s a story here, I think, one that Brubaker’s hinted at in the project’s name and in random conversations, something to do with stumbling across a series of letters written by one of his family members and deciding to write songs around those letters. Whatever the details, there’s a seriously personal feel to all of this; these aren’t just songs to him, but are rather remembrances of something else, something from another time.

The winner of the trio, hands down, is closer “Round Your Neck,” where Brubaker declares, “I’m no noose / and I’m no weight,” and promises, “I’m here when you need me,” seemingly resigned to the fact that it could be a long, long time for that need to come.

His voice and guitar spin out this declaration of unrequited, faithful love delicately, chiming distantly like a song half-heard across an empty parking lot late, late at night, and all of a sudden those comparisons in my head to John Darnielle or Damien Jurado or Sam Beam or William Elliot Whitmore seem even closer than they felt like they were before.

[Postmarked is playing 11/7/11 at El Pueblito Place, along with Frank Freeman.]
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Review by . Review posted Monday, November 7th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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