the mary janes

The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, IN
2001 Year End Picks
David Lindquist

from the Top Ten Area Releases list...

The Mary Janes, Flame

# 1.    Singer-songwriter Janas Hoyt transforms honky-tonnk into high art on this screen-door symphony of caution, optimism, tragedy and liberation. Our-roots rock heroine, aided and abetted by Heather Craig's plaintive fiddle, follow's 1999's memorable Record No. 1 with an even sharper Flame. There's an irresistable assortment of fleet and tender tracks: 'Junie Moon', 'Be Careful', 'Telescope' and 'Downtown'. And while the Mary Janes proudly dig in for boozy epic 'All I Want', the emotionally pulverizing 'Bruises and Breaks' and 'Subtract the Night' are the true show-stoppers.

from the Top Ten National Releases list...

The Mary Janes, Flame

# 6.    No 2001 release surpassed the emotional heft of Flame, the second album from Bloomington's Mary Janes. Roots-rock heroine Janas Hoyt bravely addresses the tolls of domestic abuse on the songs 'Bruises and Breaks' and 'Subtract the Night'. When she emerges on the other side with a rendition of Tom Petty's 'Free Girl Now', the anthem belongs to Hoyt alone.

Riverfront Times, St. Louis, MO
Critic's Pick
July 18, 2001
Roy Kasten

Friday, July 20; Frederick's Music Lounge

Fronted by one of the most seductive singers in rock music, the Bloomington-based Mary Janes approach alternative country with an orchestral concept, rolling out waves of guitar feedback, pedal steel, violin, accordion, mandolin and banjo. But it's ex-Vulgar Boat(wo)man Janas Hoyt's elastic, ecstatically sexy voice and open-veined songs that define the band.

On the group's most recent release, Flame, Hoyt gets even closer to the fearful needs of the body and spirit than on the dazzling Record No. 1, partly because she zeroes in on the beautiful madness only eros inspires. "Won't you tie one on with me," Hoyt half-snarls, half-pleads. "We'll wake up in a shameless heap/all sweat and desire/Won't you tear my clothing off/and lay it on the fire."Heather Craig's sometimes airy, sometimes feral violin playing floats and dances all around Hoyt's songs like a gypsy apparition, and as good as Hoyt's songs and voice can be, the sum of the Mary Janes' sound is so much greater than the parts.

A year has passed since the group's last St. Louis gig, a short, fiery set at Twangfest 2000 closed out by Hoyt's unaccompanied version of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times." For all the times that centuries-old song has been sung and recorded, it found, in Hoyt, a final destination. Don't miss one of the very best bands in the Midwest.

Chicago Reader, Chicago, IL
Spot Check
March 9, 2001
Monica Kendrick

Mary Janes - 3/10/01, at The Hideout, Chicago

John Mellencamp's Scarecrow only sold, like, three million copies--but everyone who bought one went out and started a band. You'd think breadbasket-of-America types would be better at sorting the wheat from the chaff, but no, they produce heaps and heaps of chaff, and so much of it ends up in my mailbox that I'm tempted to swear off heartland rock completely, bar the door to it altogether. But I don't, because there are a handful of geniuses who really play it the way it's meant to be played--who play it because it's what the music in their heads really sounds like, and they have wonderful heads.

Bloomington's Mary Janes are one of those bands, and they prove it again on their new Flame (Flat Earth). Front woman Janas Hoyt is a hay-pitching Chrissie Hynde, her delivery sweetly brazen, thoughtful and yet gutfelt, and the band plays a young white folks' blues that's as much Stones and Velvets as it is Mellencamp. Far from reiterating bland platitudes lyrically or musically, it demonstrates that the boy or girl next door can be complex and passionate beyond your wildest dreams.

The Daily Journal, Johnson County, IN
February 22, 2001
Scott Hall

New album is deeply personal for Bloomington artist

Rather than running from the darkness of the past, sometimes it's better to turn around and shine a light on it.

Bloomington songwriter Janas Hoyt has done just that with Flame, the new album from her violin-driven folk-rock band, the Mary Janes. Having fought through the pain of revealing herself, Hoyt hopes to put some demons to rest.

"I've been really frightened about these songs," she admits. "I'm starting to feel better. I feel like maybe it's a release."

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Nuvo Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN
February 21, 2001
Steve Hammer

The Mary Janes' emotional realism,
New CD's songs sear with drama

Good, honest American music is what the Mary Janes are all about. Solid songwriting. Earnest performances. More-than-competent playing. Bittersweet, if not melancholy, lyrics.

The band, fronted by honey-voiced singer Janas Hoyt, is another distinguished branch of the family tree that includes both John Mellencamp and the Vulgar Boatmen, each of which Hoyt has worked with, as well as the Mysteries of Life.

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The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, IN
February 20, 2001
David Lindquist

Passion fuels the Mary Janes' Flame

The exquisite Mary Janes call their new album Flame -- an accurate title for 14 songs that glow with passion.

"Divine passion," specifies band leader Janas Hoyt. "Passion that's from another place. Passion that we are inspired by, that overtakes us. Not passion that comes from us."

If Hoyt doesn't consider herself the source, she's certainly an impressive conduit. The persistent singer-songwriter willed Flame into existence, much as she did 1999's Record No. 1.

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The Times, Munster, IN
May 26, 2000
Tim Shellberg

Mary Janes singer wedded to dual loves: music and motherhood

Janas Hoyt leads two lives. On one side of the coin, she is the singer, guitarist and chief songwriter of the Bloomington Ind.-based rock outfit the Mary Janes, which keeps her on the road throughout the country on a regular basis. On the other side, she is a family woman who spends as much time as possible with her husband and children.

"Sometimes it seems tougher than other times," she said shortly after returning from her kids' elementary school.

"I think it just depends on how much sleep you've gotten and what kind of mood you're in," she said. "We're not kids, and this is not a kid band. This is a serious band, but everybody's lives are serious, too. Most everybody's got homes and relationships and families to take care of."

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Style Weekly, Richmond, VA
March 21, 2000
Ames Arnold

Melody with an Edge

The Mary Janes may be relatively unknown in this neck of the woods, but the group deserves to be a draw at Babe's on Friday, Mar. 24, if the band's CD Record No. 1 and its recent Winter 2000 demos tell an accurate musical tale. Fronted by the writing and light but evocative voice of Janas Hoyt, the Indianapolis-based band's brand of song is melodic and moody. This approach can come across as wispy "art rock" and often screams pretension, but the Mary Janes' sound has enough garage edge that the music is vital and often compelling.

"Shooting Star" starts as a quiet ballad, but erupts into a beautifully layered love song. "Part of Me" rings with a restrained but persistent groove that also eventually explodes. "Never Felt Better" captures a beefed-up folk-rock rhythm that witnesses the reason Hoyt and the band have played gigs from Lilith Fair to Austin's South By Southwest to the Tin Angel in Philadelphia. "Final Days" closes the CD with an urgent look at love that's both sad and gorgeous. Hoyt's guitar is sparse throughout "No. 1," but she has a rocker's soul. A violin often pushes her with a sinewy urgency, and the rhythm section drives the band through its shifting arrangements. Piano, organ and harmonica are also featured in the Mary Janes' sound.

John Mellencamp used Hoyt on his most recent release and at times songs such as "Sigh to Signal" convey a Mellencamp feel. The Mary Janes, however, is a more diverse and musically interesting unit even if it has no platinum albums to hang on the wall. Touring for the past year throughout the Midwest and on the East Coast, picking up positive notices in support of "Record No. 1," the band's lush mix of carefully constructed drama holds promise.

The Mary Janes should prove a good complement to Dirtball at Babe's on Friday. Doors open at 8 p.m. and admission is $5. Call 355-9330 for details.

The Capital Times, Madison, WI
February 25, 2000
Rob Thomas

Mary Janes are anything but plain

From the get-go, Janas Hoyt envisioned the Mary Janes as almost more of an art project than a band. Instead of an unchanging band roster, Hoyt would tap into the roots-music community of places like Austin, Texas, inviting different musicians to sit in with her and violist Kathy Kolata. Since her songs were so basic and so spare, those musicians could step in an color the empty space.

"Because the music is so minimal, it's a great terrain for players," she says. "If you find a really good mandolin player, or harmonica player, or especially the strings - all of these instruments fit very well over the music. And I think that gives it a little more of its roots connections."

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The Herald-Times
Bloomington, Indiana
December 31, 1999
J. J. Perry

Mary Janes' Record No. 1 a standout '99 CD

Record No. 1 is a fitting title for the Mary Janes' 1999 release. Not only is it the band's first full-length album, but it also stands as the best local record of the year. Putting a pop music sheen on country music is nothing new, but in the talented hands of the Mary Janes (and, specifically, Janas Hoyt, songwriter and the Mary Janes' musical mother), the music is at once rootsy and accessible, naked and real and still well-crafted.

The Mary Janes began working on what would become Record No. 1 in 1996, taking over two years to complete, with numerous personnel and studio switches before it was finally released on the Nashville, Tenn., Delmore label. Record No. 1 is as much photo album as record album; the different lineups and older material, coupled with more recent songs, provide interesting snapshots in the evolution of the band (though the group was musically evolved from the start).

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Gary Post-Tribune, Gary, Indiana
November 19, 1999
Bob Craig

Mary Janes send a message

While traveling around the Midwest and Eastern United States, the Mary Janes, a Bloomington-based band, see America off the beaten path. And what they see disturbs them.

"Things are a mess everywhere we go, but the other thing that's very interesting is that everywhere we go we're meeting wonderfully positive people. People that seem to have active minds and active hearts," said Janas Hoyt, the heart and soul of the band.

"We've been talking about trying to find some information about eco-renewal and help to spread information about what people can do in their communities and in their cities to help counter the effects of the incredible degradation that seems to be spreading everywhere."

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Irish Voice, New York, New York
October 6, 1999
Off The Record
Tom Dunphy

The Not-So-Plain Janes

The Mary Janes have nothing to do with Irish music. There, that's out of the way. Not being Irish doesn't preclude anyone from this page -- being boring or lousy does. And the Mary Janes are neither -- hell, they're one of the most intriguing band's this writer's heard all year. The Bloomington Indiana-based Mary Janes are swinging through the area this week, as are well worth investigating.

Born in the mid-90's when singer/guitarist/songwriter Janas Hoyt spun off from the eclectic Vulgar Boatmen to form a side project, the Mary Janes combine country-sounding instruments -- fiddles, mandolins, pedal steel guitar -- with a stripped-down punk esthetic that's melodic, tense and compelling.

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The Spectator, Raleigh, NC
September 22, 1999
Sound Check
Rick Cornell

Sweet Janes

Janas Hoyt explains getting to here from there with The Mary Janes

It's been an all-American kind of summer for Bloomington, Indiana's Janas Hoyt. First, her voice is all over a John Mellencamp release that came out not long ago - an album of rerecorded greatest hits - and it doesn't get much more red, white and blue than little pink houses. "Isn't that just a big ol' slice of America," offers Ms. Hoyt with a long-distance laugh. The night before our phone call, she sang the National Anthem before a baseball game in Indianapolis at a new ballpark called, get this, Victory Field.

But it's also been a painful summer for Janas Hoyt: in late July, her father, Philip Andrew Hoyt, passed away after a long battle with cancer. At the first show that Hoyt and her band The Mary Janes played after her father was laid to rest, Hoyt opened with an a cappella song that she had written named "The Kachina Song," its title a reference to the Hopi gods who transport loved ones to the clouds after their death. And several weeks later when she got the phone call about singing the National Anthem, she thought "that's something my dad would get a real kick out of... It was like he was hanging around, somehow pulling little strings here and there."

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The Daily Journal
Franklin, Indiana
September 16, 1999
On The Beat
Scott Hall
Critics' favor gives Mary Janes shot at national exposure

For an artist who has some momentum and general buzz going her way, Janas Hoyt seems oddly humble in her goals and cautious when quizzed about her work and life.

It's not that there's nothing to talk about. This summer - after a couple years of piecemeal recording and various delays - the Bloomington resident and her band, the Mary Janes, finally released their debut album, Record No. 1. The folk-flavored collection on the small Delmore label immediately won accolades from such prestigious corners as the Chicago Reader, Seattle Weekly, and No Depression, the newsletter of the so-called alternative country genre.

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Chicago Reader, Chicago, IL
July 23, 1999
Linda Ray

Winning the Waiting Game

Record No. 1, the long-delayed debut album by the Mary Janes, begins with an ending: "Shooting Star," the seven-minute opening opus, is a love song to main Mary Jane Janas Hoyt's former band, the Vulgar Boatmen. Hoyt starts slowly, delicately, with her own tentative guitar and vocals, adding watercolor washes of cello, violin, piano, and more guitar, until the orchestration is as dense with ideas as it is spare in execution. She whispers, then stretches her voice thin to a clear pop contralto, and for all the longing inherent in the lyrics ("All of our old days / They fall away") she closes with a triumphant expression of autonomy: "Days that came and went and all the time we spent / I will make it last."

Hoyt was the face of the Vulgar Boatmen for some 300 shows between 1992 and 1994. She wasn't the front woman, but she was the lead personality, an energetic and animated harmony singer and percussionist whom fans often remember first when they recall the Boatmen's live shows. The journey from that time to the release earlier this month of Record No. 1 has been a difficult one, detoured occasionally onto the mommy track and obstructed repeatedly by the best intentions of the recording studio where the album was made and the shoestring budget of the label that released it.

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Riverfront Times, St. Louis, MO
June 16, 1999
Roy Kasten
Sweet Janes

Record No. 1 is a pop album of harrowing textures. Where will it find a home? Despite some occasionally thunderous bursts, the Mary Janes embed their rock & roll hooks with great subtlety, and Janas Hoyt’s liquid phrasings, free of histrionics or breathy posing, demand a rare attentiveness. It’s become a cliche to lament the genre fragmentation of radio — even a station as extraordinary as KDHX tends to parcel shows into musical niches: a slot for folk, a slot for bluegrass, a slot for jazz, a slot for blues — but that fragmentation is a fact. If you’re a band like the Mary Janes and you combine countryish melodies and textures with bubbly pop and some confessional folk intimacy, and now and again shoot the whole through with rock fury, you may wind up with an irresistible record no one will ever hear.

“Some of the feedback we’ve gotten totally dismisses us,” Hoyt says. “They’ll say, ‘I think this is pop music or triple-A music, and I have no place for it in my radio show. I can’t play this next to Hank Williams.’ We’ve had people tainting it one way or another, but the music is in a gray area. I confess that I didn’t sit down in 1996 when I started this recording and say, I’m gonna make an alt-country record. As we got out and started playing, we found an affinity with certain bands, and reviewers discovered an affinity that we never originally noticed. We come from a very roots-oriented neck of the woods, but it has become what it has become.”

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No Depression
March / April 1999
Town and Country
Rich Albertoni

Mary Janes: Room to move

"Space in a song is what gives it emotive power," says Janas Hoyt with deliberation, spreading her words out even as she speaks, leaving room to consider whether this statement applies only to her songs...

...Orchestration and improvisation are at the heart of the Mary Janes' sound. Bursting with counterpoint string arrangements, textured sonic layers and duets, the Janes find their identity in a space somewhere between a folk-pop band and a classical string quartet....

...Throughout the recording - especially on the trance-folk "Throwing Pennies" - Hoyt's vocals are felt more than heard, weaving their way seamlessly into the instrumentation. On "Wish I Could Fly", the Janes let loose their painfully restrained rhythm section, proving that, yes, they know how to rock...

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