MARA HRUBY / “Character”

Back in ’06, I remember being massively disappointed by On The Jungle Floor, Van Hunt’s follow-up to his brilliant debut album, Van Hunt. The songs on his first album were so evocative of the glory days of ‘70s soul, yet simultaneously so fresh, so effortless, so original. I liked that album enough that I convinced myself that Van Hunt was the next Prince. I don’t think it’s too early to admit I was wrong. Who knows what manner of personal, political or monetary b.s. Van got caught up in, but it’s been seven years since his debut, and so far, he’s released only one must-have album – the first one. (Although he does have a new album coming later this year. And on his own label to boot. You know I’m loving that…gotta check for it.)
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Then the other day I came across an EP from a young, Bay Area vocalist named Mara Hruby. The entire EP is good, but the stand-out track is a moody, bassline-driven number during which Mara asks, “Who are you / In the face of disappointment / Where is your character?” Good question. More to the point, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d heard it asked before. Two or three mouse-clicks later (you gotta love the internet…back in the day, it would’ve taken me weeks to figure the whole thing out) and I realized why the question sounded familiar. My man Van Hunt had asked me the same damn thing back in ’06.
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Yes, “Character” was the lead single from the ill-fated On The Jungle Floor album. Listening to Mara glide her way through the lyrics and melody of Van’s composition, I found it hard to believe that I’d passed on loving it the first time. My copy of the Van Hunt CD was (and remains) buried somewhere in a box in my garage, but I had to hear the original. A few more clicks and I was the proud owner of a shiny-new iTunes-approved copy of Van’s version of the tune. I clicked play. Yup – same record. And yup – it’s good. Now I’m wondering about the rest of the album. I think I’m going to have to get dirty later this evening – I know that CD is down there somewhere.

* * *

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More Mara.

The EP is named From Her Eyes and there’s a story behind the title. Each of the seven tracks is a cover of a song written and originally performed by one of Mara’s favorite male artists. Mara’s idea was to remake the songs from an intimate, personal, and female point of view…hence the title.

Some of the versions are more successful than others: the previously described “Character” is a home run; Mos Def’s “The Panties” and the Roots’ “Stereolab” are, at a minimum, extra-base hits; but Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” is a swing and a miss.

As much as I like From Her Eyes, I’m not going to repeat the mistake I made with Mr. Hunt. I’m not calling Mara ‘the next’ anything. For now, I’ll just be satisfied with these seven lovely tributes and hope the young lady’s got more sonic goodness in her and the ability, desire and opportunity to keep it coming.

Good luck, Mara.

P.S. The entire From Her Eyes EP is available as a free download direct from Mara’s bandcamp page. Check it out.

—Mtume ya Salaam

* Although he does have a new album coming later this year. And on his own label to boot. You know I’m loving that…gotta check for it.


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Mtume, I know you, soon as the needle droped (oops, should say: soon as the laser light decoded the digital) I knew you would dig Mara. She got that light, airy, floating, ethereal sound: Astrud (& Bebito, Astrud’s daughter) Gilberto, and on a heavier, honeyed level, Sade. Their’s is one of the female vocal sounds to which you instinctively respond.

Soft, unhurried, softer, tender finger snaps (no loud hand claps) accented a silk soft, almost (but not quite) fragile voice that vibrates like a marsh reed on the edge of a moonlit lake oscillating with the undulation of wave wash. This kind of singing is lullabye lush, you might even call such sensitive tones ‘cooing’ like what the old folks used to call turtle dovin’.

I’m more into the earthy end of the spectrum, and for sure more fire, but I can dig a sip of this too. Sort of like misty on a quiet fall morn, walking the levee and you hear her footfalls before you see sister lady glide past you on her morning jog. And you turn and watch her until you can’t hear her no more, cause the fog swallows her form long before the sound of her steps fades out. And then you return to your workout.

Later that week you might even wonder did you really see/hear a woman or was she an illusion, some vision you imagined. It’s a bit too ephemeral for me so I don’t return to her work over and over, nevertheless, I do remember, and for that moment when she was within earshot I did like what I heard.

Additionally, Mtume recommended two videos because he liked those stripped down acoustic versions more than the EP. I did a little further phishing and pulled up four other videos including a cover of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful.” You really might want to check these out:

1. “The Panties” – Mara live duo with guitarist Nate Mercereau (Attic Of Love)
2. “The Panties” – Mara Official Music Video

3. “The Panties” – Mara live @ Pagoda (San Jose)

4. “Stereolab (Lose Myself)” – Mara Official Music Video

5. “Alright” – Mara live @ Yoshi’s (San Francisco)

6. “Simply Beautiful” – Mara live duo with guitarist Nate Mercereau

—Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 at 9:12 pm and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “MARA HRUBY / “Character””

Matthew Says:
November 4th, 2015 at 1:20 am

My Dad once told me that if I like a song/record A LOT the first time I hear it, it won’t stand the test of time. “On The Jungle Floor” is an amazing record — perhaps only topped by his follow-up (“Popular” — which remains unreleased to this day). And I needed to listen to it a few times before realizing what I’d been missing. I hope you found the CD and gave it another chance. Then again, if you gave up after your first listen to On The Jungle Floor, then I recommend checking out his entire catalog since then. Most of it can be found on iTunes and at The snippets alone will have you hooked.

Some times you luck out and get to experience an artist for the first time, all over again.

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