Locals: Hootin’, hollerin’ spouses Buckles and Boots to release first album

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From the July 18, 2013 edition

Among Brian and Jessi Maxwell’s many musical endeavors, Buckles and Boots is at once the truest and the most fanciful, a cowboy parlor fantasy founded on true-life tales of drama and domestic bliss.

“It’s the most unique, it’s the most fun to play, and people are actually responding to it more than anything we’ve done before,” Brian said.

The songwriting spouses met eight years ago when Brian joined a band with Jessi and her ex. Two years later, after that band and Jessi’s relationship had dissolved, Brian ran into her at ComFest and invited her to jam with some friends.

Those sessions sparked a romance and spawned Spaceship Awesome, the group that eventually morphed into the folk-rock band The Song Birds, still a going concern. Four years ago, Brian and Jessi got hitched. Two years later, not long after their son, Dalton, was born, so was Buckles and Boots. When Brian grabbed a banjo and started riffing one night, Jessi couldn’t get her guitar parts to match up, so she stomped on a TV tray and shook a tambourine.

An identity accumulated from there. They aimed to sound bigger than a duo but vowed never to expand the lineup. That involved some aerobic feats; stomping, clapping and singing — sometimes for four hours straight — is exhausting.

Not content to sound bigger than life, they’d look it too. Brian performs in his uncle’s white three-piece suit or sometimes an old tuxedo with tails. Jessi dons old wedding dresses and other retro kitsch.

“When we walk into the bar, we want people to be like, ‘Either that’s the band or those are some f---ing weird people showing up at the bar,’” Brian said.

To capture this experience on record, the Maxwells hired engineer Jay Alton as a producer. More than just setting up mics and pressing record, Alton was a creative factor, adding subtle arrangements and breaking songwriting stalemates.

The result is an intimate but adorned double-disc set — a saucy “Saturday night”-style full-length called The Dirty Listen and a tender “Sunday morning”-style EP called Laundry on the Line. The lightweight EP is more of an aberration; Buckles and Boots tends toward crazy stories of Jessi’s former wild life as a bartender in Akron. “Say You Love Me,” for instance, is about a stalker ex-boyfriend who broke into her home. She wasn’t comfortable shedding light on many of the others.

“I’m finally being more honest with myself and allowing the things to come out in my songs,” Jessi said. “It is like reading my diary to people sometimes.”

They’ll celebrate the releases Saturday at the revitalized Ledo’s Tavern.

Photo by Meghan Ralston