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Mary Bue buries her piano and picks up a guitar for new CD

Mary Bue holds her guitar in the green room area of R.T. Quinlan's Saloon in Duluth. Duluth artist Mary Bue is concentrating on promoting her new album nationally. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)1 / 2
Holy Bones by Mary Bue2 / 2
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RIP, piano. Mary Bue’s CD release show will include a ceremonial moment during which her keyboard will be carried from the stage by pallbearer types to make way for her new life as an electric guitar-ripping rock ’n’ roller.

“I’ve been feeling confined by my piano,” Bue said. “I’ve done that forever. When I write on guitar, I have a different voice.”

And, sometimes, that might be the voice of the baby cow.

Bue’s latest album “Holy Bones” shows off a musical makeover for the singer-songwriter previously known for her minimalist, piano-driven style. She is planning to acknowledge the genre-hop during her show Friday at RT Quinlan’s Saloon where, if she finds time to make them, there will be piano pinatas.

Also on the bill: Anthony Bennett, Chris Koza, Duluth Dolls Burlesque Troupe and DJ Walt Dizzo.

“I feel pretty fired up,” Bue said. “I feel excited, more energetic. More impassioned. Some fans (have said) ‘I’m going to miss the old Mary Bue, but I can hear her in here.’”

‘You want to rock’

This shift from a Tori Amos influence to something more Joan Jett-ian isn’t a stretch. Bue grew up grunge in Princeton, Minn., and had a self-described “chick band” with a friend. When she decided to focus on playing piano as an early teen, her bandmate was skeptical.

“Don’t do that,” Bue recalled her saying. “You want to rock.”

Bue said she has felt her tastes change since she released “Apple in the Ocean” in 2012. Part of this can be attributed to her relationship with American Rebels, a straight-up rock ’n’ roll band that includes her husband Kyle Maclean. (Members of the band will be backing her during Friday’s show.)  

It’s got the Bue who, in recent history, would be likened to singer-songwriters like Sarah McLachlan, Ani Difranco and Amos, queuing up Pat Benatar, dusting off Joan Jett and channeling her inner Tonya Donelly.

Never fear, Bue Heads:

“The core of Mary’s style and her distinctive songwriting voice are still intact,” said Christine Dean, music director at KUMD-FM. “The new, more rockin’ arrangements just enhance them.”

Still, the switch-up couldn’t have been an easy one, according to a fellow singer-songwriter.

“It’s a mind-bend going from solo pianist to guitarist with a full band,” said Amy Abts, who will sing backup during Bue’s show on Friday and whose artwork is used on the “Holy Bones” album cover. “I think it’s super cool. It’s always good to mix it up and stretch your brain in the process. Mary does it well — with a great band, too.”

Piano-aggression dreams

This past summer, Bue quit a longtime job booking music at Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe to focus on her music and yoga. (Recently, she added pre-show yoga to concertgoers in the Upper Peninsula.) She felt reinvigorated, she said, and the time was right.

“Now it’s totally entrepreneurial,” she said. “It has to be yoga or music. I was so excited to have all that time I could put into my art and promotion. The more energy you give something, the more momentum grows.”

Most of “Holy Bones” had been recorded when she launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year to help with a national promotional campaign geared toward college radio listeners. Her appeal included her changed relationship with her primary instrument. She had been having “disturbing piano-aggression dreams,” she wrote. “Like cleaving a piano in half with a table saw and shoving my keyboard in its wheeled case down the hill into the lake. I think it’s time we take a little break.”

Bue blasted past her $5,000 goal. After Friday, she’s got shows booked across the country, including New Orleans, Phoenix and Los Angeles. In between, she will play an unofficial show during SXSW in Austin.

‘Holy Bones’

“Holy Bones” is an eight-song album that opens with an homage to the ’90s indie song, “Candy.” Bue’s got sleepy vocals and a list of demands that become more feverish as the song builds: “I want what I want when I want it: I want candy. I want money. I want my mommy. I want my daddy. I want to be lazy. Want things to be easy.”     

“Cheribum” was born of an angel card reading, where Bue was told that child angels hold a record of her romantic history, she said. “Veal” is a response to animal cruelty and is from the perspective of a baby cow, Bue said. “I will certainly never jump over the moon,” Bue sings in the two-minute song.

Abts likes the finished product.

“The songs are all super solid,” she said. “They’re catchy.”

Bue’s sixth studio album is another segment in a life that has included big moves to Rhode Island and then Seattle, where she studied yoga for about three years. There’s a little pressure, what with the genre jump, but nothing unmanageable.

“You would want me to evolve, right?” she said. “Everyone needs to change.”

Best case scenario, though, “Holy Bones” would land on College Music Journal charts, Bue said. She would be able to hire management and publicity teams. While her husband will be joining her on stage for upcoming shows, Bue said she would like an entire band that could commit to a few years on the road. To play lots and lots of festivals.

“A sweet tour bus,” she added. “A tour jet.

“Dream big. As big as you can get.”

GO SEE IT

What: Mary Bue’s “Holy Bones” album release show

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday

Where: RT Quinlan’s Saloon, 221 W. Michigan St.

Tickets: $7 at the door

On-Air: Bue will be Live from Studio A at 2 p.m. Today on KUMD-FM 103.3

Available: “Holy Bones” is available for download and order at marybue.com, Electric Fetus and Duluth Coffee Co.

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