the mary janes

Style Weekly, Richmond, VA
March 26, 2002
Ames Arnold
The Mary Janes, Flame

This fine independent release from the Indiana-based Mary Janes is shot through with themes of conflict and hope that hold out for a brighter day. Fronted by singer-songwriter Janas Hoyt, the group's stripped-down and free-flowing sound weaves a struggling yet hopeful path from 'Junie Moon', who "stands deep inside her stocking feet", to the band's final upbeat take on Tom Petty's 'Free Girl Now'.

Throughout the troubled trek, Hoyt's passionate delivery states her case well, whether it's searching for freedom and satisfaction or looking at love gone wrong or standing up against the odds. Set against a musical backdrop of rhythm guitar, bass, drums, violin and pedal steel, Janas uses dynamics and emotion throughout without overstating either. Particularly effective are the sexy, slide guitar-driven groove of 'All I Want' and the acoustic 'Downtown' with its poignant and restrained acoustic tale of murder. At times country-folky, at other times rock 'n' roll with a twist, Flame is a well-crafted, smart project from a group that deserves to be heard.

Sticks and Stones
Fall, 2001
John Kenyon

The Mary Janes, Flame

Janas Hoyt rocks. Period. Hoyt, who leads the Mary Janes, is a top-notch songwriter and a deceptively powerful singer, and on Flame she delivers her second album full of rootsy, country-rock winners. Hoyt once played with the Vulgar Boatmen, and her songs sometimes chug along at that band's insistent, no-nonsense beat. But she layers more on top of it than the Boatmen do, coloring tracks like "Junie Moon" and "Flame" with a swinging groove.

You're occasionally put in the mind of Lucinda Williams on this disc, and it's not an out-of-line reference, but Hoyt seems like she'd be a lot more fun, less moody than Williams, more willing to shut up and rock. Take a listen to her rollicking cover of Tom Petty's "Free Girl Now" for proof. She stands the tune on its head; here, it's a true call to arms, and Hoyt is leading the charge.

September / October, 2001
Larry O. Dean

The Mary Janes, Flame

Like a Midwestern Lucinda Williams or Chrissie Hynde (who, come to think of it was Ohio born), Mary Janes frontperson Janas Hoyt sings unapologetically from the heart. Sometime Vulgar Boatmen member, Hoyt's own band offers an extension of that unadorned school of emotionalism in the commonplace, completing the picture with snarls of feedback guitar, chirping violin, dry and dressed-down drum and bass accompaniment. While one song rides along a bed of hoedown accordion ("Be Careful"), the next in sequence ("Telescope") employs melodic violin licks and overlapping vocals to dreamy effect. Acoustic ballad "Downtown" bequeaths images of forlorn square-dances, foreclosures and human longing, while "Say it Two Times" initiates with a buss of electric guitar (same as standout track "Better Way") before consummating a cowpunkish, short-of-breath refrain.

Most telling perhaps is Flame's sole cover, a badass reading of Tom Petty's "Free Girl Now" with jubilant harmonica soloing that does the original proud. It could be construed as Hoyt's declaration of independence from the music machinery that has chewed up and spat out lesser converts to the glory of rock 'n roll, or a tip of the hat to Petty, one of pop's enduring champions of gimmick-free music making. No matter - Flame, only the Mary Janes' second album, stands on its own as a testament to its own savoir-faire.

All Music Guide
August, 2001
Erik Hage

The Mary Janes, Flame

Janas Hoyt is a little bit Chrissie Hynde, a little bit Lou Reed, and a little bit Lucinda Williams. The Mary Janes are a little bit folk, a little bit country, a little bit Velvet Underground, and a whole lot alternative - and, as this album attests, this is a great thing. "Telescope" is highly reminiscent of the John Cale-era Velvets, and doesn't try to hide its derivative nature (especially with the sawing and moaning viola). But with Hoyt's sweet voice spread all over the noisy fuss, it's easy to forgive the obvious tribute (especially because the Mary Janes attack the song with the earnest fervor of recent converts).

This album shows Hoyt to be a vocalist of many moods and styles and, more intriguingly, a delightful oddball in the spirit of Maria McKee. Hoyt has chops too - big time. Just listen to her rend a heart in two with her dynamics on "Lucky Stars." Other highlights include the title track, "Bruises and Breaks," "Junie Moon," and the delightfully upbeat roots pop of "Better Way." This Bloomington, IN, band continues to take Americana in a fascinating direction on this sophomore effort.

July 23,2001
Lee Zimmerman

The Mary Janes, Flame

Record No. 1, the Mary Janes aptly titled debut disc, was a lovely, lilting collection of melancholy melodies with seductive folk flair. The band's new album, Flame, lights a spark under this re-energized ensemble, injecting a punchier sound and enough pedal steel and fiddle to provide a rootsy flair.

Singer Janas Hoyt has clearly become more of an assertive presence; her she sounds like a cross between Chrissie Hynde and Maria McKee, and that makes Flame both a solid and significant effort.

Performing Songwriter
DIY Top 12
June, 2001
Clay Steakley

The Mary Janes, Flame

Bloomington, Indiana, band The Mary Janes play gutsy, undressed Midwestern rock. Fronted by ex-Vulgar Boatmen backup singer Janas Hoyt and violinist Heather Craig, The Mary Janes are an unpretentious, honest-to-God, American rock and roll band. The lazy, unhurried flavor of even their most snarling tunes gives them the musical profile of Chrissie Hynde fronting the Velvet Underground.

Hoyt and Craig take The Mary Janes down and dirty and drag them through seedy blues numbers and the Rolling Stones school of hard luck before coming up just long enough to kick out a Gram Parsons ballad. Then the lap steel turns to feedback and they're back down in that wonderfully sleazy redneck Lou Reed territory again.

Throughout, Flame is decorated with that Indiana fiddle that calls to mind mid-'80s Mellencamp and a loose, easy rhythm section. The final track, a sandpapery, pounding rendition of Tom Petty's "Free Girl Now" sounds as if it were written for The Mary Janes with its pounding quarter note percussion and guitars that slither from airy to grungy. All comparisons aside, Flame is a fiery, guileless rocker.

The Big Takeover
June, 2001
Bryan Swirsky

The Mary Janes, Flame

While Bloomington, Indiana may never become the next Seattle, it's still a town that's produced some extraordinary influential musicians. On one hand, you have the acid casualty likes of The Gizmos, MX-80 Sound and Glen Branca. On the other, you have Lisa Germano and John Cougar Mellencamp.

So enter the Mary Janes, a quintet fronted by ex-Vulgar Boatmen, Janas Hoyt and accompanied by violinist Heather Craig. Clearly the Mary Janes have their roots firmly teathered in avant punk roots, however, the music is strictly alt-country. Well played and neatly executed, Flame shows promise for things to come. A solid effort by a talented singer who is starting to find her voice. Nicely done.

Metropolitan Living, Seattle, WA
June 2001
Scott Holter

The Mary Janes, Flame

Here's the sophomore effort from the Bloomington, Ind., band led by Janas Hoyt, formerly of '90s cult heroes, the Vulgar Boatmen. With her punk-rock past and classic-pop framework, singer/songwriter Hoyt mixes elements of American folk and country into her work, and augments the sound with tight, emotional instrumentation featuring the plaintive strings of violinist Kathy Kolata.

the Nashville Scene, Nashville, Tennessee
May 31, 2001
Bill Friskics-Warren

The Mary Janes, Flame

Most of the dozen or so reviewers who raved about this Indiana band's 1998 debut painted it as a cross between the music of The Velvet Underground and some mythical daughter of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. But it was more like a somewhat more engaged, though hardly less precious, update of the Cowboy Junkies' The Trinity Session, a record that critics overestimated in much the same way.

Flame, however, lives up to its title, as The Mary Janes punch up the guitars some and frontwoman/Vulgar Boatman alum Janas Hoyt swaggers and snarls more--as her vitriolic cover of Tom Petty's "Free Girl Now" attests, a hell of a lot more. Nevertheless, there are plenty of the band's beloved lyrical flourishes here as well, most of them complemented by violins (not fiddles), accordion, and steel guitar.

Best of all, Hoyt is now writing with more self-awareness than self-consciousness. On the battered "Subtract the Night," she could almost pass for Patti Smith's pensive kid-sister. And damned if some of that droning feedback doesn't, for just a second, put you in mind of the Velvets' "Black Angel's Death Song."

The Olympian
Music Without Borders
May 11, 2001
Tucker Petertil

The Mary Janes, Flame

Janas Hoyt, guitarist and vocalist for the Mary Janes, is a rock 'n' roll survivor. The former member of Mid-western band Vulgar Boatmen has balanced the roles of single mom and struggling musician for many years.

After the release of the first Mary Janes CD, the overlooked gem Record No. 1, Janas guested on a couple of John Mellencamp records and played in the all-female band Lola. Now, married to her manager and with the release of the second Mary Janes CD, Flame, she's in a better position to let the music flow.

And flow it does. Janas, along with ex-Boatmen violinist Kathy Kolata and other musicians on second violin, bass, drums and pedal steel, lay down some sweet sounds reminiscent of an Indiana version of Lucinda Williams. The songs are full of grit, longing, sadness and hope, kinda like life.

No Depression
May/June 2001
Rick Cornell

The Mary Janes, Flame

Use a little imagination when browsing the press clippings of Bloomington, Indiana, band the Mary Janes, and you can concoct scenarios that find Hank Williams hanging with John Cale, the Carter Family joining forces with the Cocteaus, and Chrissie Hynde auditioning for Fairport Convention. This eclectic list of comparisons and speculated influences is fitting because the focal point of the mary Janes' sound, the stunning voice of Vulgar Boatmen vet Janas Hoyt, is a versatile instrument with multiple personalities that emerge and retreat as needed. Hoyt unveils a near purr when contemplating contentment, but she's not afraid to growl when cornered.

After the album's guardedly optimistic first half, courtesy of songs such as "Junie Moon", the elegant "Telescope" (haunted, as is most of Flame, by dueling violins), and "All I Want", things take a brutal turn. "Downtown" featuring scene-setting slide guitar work from Jason Wilber, travels a road from hope to homicide, while a bully's fists play a role in "Subtract the Night". In between is the album's most compelling moment, a tale of beatings, loss and widespread betrayal titled "Bruises and Breaks"; it rocks like a cousin to "Copperhead Road", sung by Hoyt with grit and battered soul.

The Mary Janes' full-length debut Record No. 1 was a revelation for many and a promise kept for others who had first encountered the band on the Tom T. Hall tribute album, Real. With their always-intriguing dynamics now augmented by pedal steel accents and, on the catchy "Be Careful", accordion, Flame has the feel of a long-term vow.

The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin
May 3, 2001
Rob Thomas

The Mary Janes, Flame

Is that a swagger we see in the step of the Mary Janes on their new album, Flame ? The Indianapolis-based band drew critical raves for its debut album, Record No. 1, a deep and atmospheric collection that was probably filed under alt-country, but whose wide open spaces included room for folk, blues and rock as well.

Flame has filled a lot of those empty space with a more direct, confident roots-rock sound, from the fuzzy feedback of "Better Way" to the churning rhythm of the title track. Much like Madison's own NoahJohn, the Mary Janes seem intent on homesteading on the frontier between elegant, classic country music of the 1950's and the smart, furry rock music of the 1970's.

The confidence of the music finds much of its source in the lyrics, many of which deals with narrators who have extricated themselves from bad situations, or are finding their way into good ones. It's no coincidence that the album closes with a joyour cover of Tom Petty's "Free Girl NOw".

With the rhythm sections changing over the years, the heart of the Mary Janes remains lead singer Janas Hoyt and violinist Heather Craig. Craig's bow gets to take a more central band role that most fiddle players do, intertwining with pedal steel, steel guitar and mandolin throughout the album.

But the main attraction remains Hoyt, whopse beautifully expressive voice can exude toughness and vulnerability in the same note, much like Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.

The Mary Janes will play at Mother Fool's Coffee House at 1101 Williamson St. at 8pm on Friday.

Spring 2001
Bob Pomeroy

The Mary Janes, Flame

Janas Hoyt is a veteran of the Bloomington, Indiana music scene. She was a member of the Northern branch of the Vulgar Boatmen syndicate before striking out on her own with the Mary Janes. The Mary Janes put out a single in the early 90's and then went immediately on hiatus. Luckily for us, Hoyt couldn't stay silent forever.

Flame is the Mary Janes second full-length disc and finds them in fine form. The Mary Janes sound is indie rock gone missing on rural back roads. The band has picked up some country twang and a rootsier sound. You can gauge how far the band has come by comparing the dreamy sound of their remake of their early single, "Telescope" with the rootsy rock of the title track.

Heather Craig and Kathy Kolata share violin duties on Flame. Their violin work provides a distinctive dimension to the Mary Janes sound. The music industry is unforgiving. It thrives on youth and eats its young. The Mary Janes are proof that music transcends the industry and has a life of its own.

Ink 19
April, 2001
Phil Bailey

The Mary Janes, Flame

I used to think the only good thing in Bloomington, Indiana was Hoosier basketball. Now there are two good things to come out of the small college town: the Hoosiers and The Mary Janes. Rising out of the ashes of the Vulgar Boatmen's demise comes this new group headed by Janas Hoyt, whose honky tonk not only illuminates her deeply poetic lyrics, but almost lets you smell the sawdust on the floor.

The Mary Janes understand their past as they fuse honky tonk vocals with traditional bluegrass instruments, including pedal steel guitar and fiddles, while creating a remarkably fresh sound. This is the kind of record that gets you excited about music again.

Aiding and Abetting
April 23, 2001
Jon Worley

The Mary Janes, Flame

Hard rockin' alt. country. Janas Hoyt wrote these songs. She sang these songs. And she recruited plenty of friends to flesh out the Mary Janes's sound. Which part do I like best? Not a fair question.

The songs are earthy and full, drenched in energetic emotion. Sometimes the lyrics look back, but these songs are all about moving forward. Hoyt's voice has more of a 70s singer-songwriter quality than a country or folk feel, but it fits her writing style perfectly.

Different songs feature different instrumentation. There's violin on a number of tracks, and some accordion here and there. Simple flavors that enhance the main course. The production has left a punchy sound that brings out the kinetic qualities of Hoyt's songwriting. Perfect.

Utterly enjoyable. Great driving music, with enough soul to accompany a languid night under the stars as well. It's far too easy to fall in love with this album.

Durham Herald-Sun, Durham, North Carolina
March 30, 2001
Phil Van Vleck

The Mary Janes, Flame

Thsi is an excellent second album from Janas Hoyt, founder of the Mary Janes, and violinist Heather Craig. The sheer musicality of Flame is the most impressive feature of the album. Hoyt is a catchy vocalist; she authored 13 of the 14 tunes on the CD. Her music has a twang to it, but that comes mainly from Craig's fiddle. Hoyt is more of a roots rock artist -- Indiana's Marshall Chapman. A lot of supposedly clever people will miss this album - don't be one of them; this is a wonderful record.

Herald-Times, Bloomington, Indiana
February 23, 2001
Jason Nickey

The Mary Janes, Flame

On the Mary Janes' excellent debut CD, Record No. 1, singer and main-Jane Janas Hoyt sang "It takes a kind of courage to walk out on Galilee" on one of the standout tracks, "Never Felt Better."

And it also takes a kind of courage to walk away from a winning formula, which, in many ways, is what Hoyt and company do on their sophomore release, Flame, which will see official release with a performance tonight at 10 at the Cellar Lounge.

Some touchstones are still here, all the important ones at least: the lay-back riffs of Hoyt's guitar and the ever-present violin/viola accompaniment. But whereas Record No. 1 was more about the sound and vibe, Flame puts the emphasis more on Hoyt's voice and words, and not just because the lyrics are included in the liner notes. But it's a needed emphasis given that Flame is 20 minutes longer than Record No. 1.

Recalling Lonesome Jubilee-era Mellencamp with its fiddle 'n' accordion approach, Flame puts Hoyt's voice front and center, and she uses the spotlight to cut loose in a way she never quite did on Record No. 1. Gone are the hushed whispers (well, except for the album's ode to stalking, "Telescope"), allowing Hoyt's accent to come forward, sounding like a hybrid of Patti Smith and Lucinda Williams.

Janas Hoyt described Flame as her "girl done wrong" album, and there are at least two songs explicitly about domestic violence. Elsewhere, songs such as "Vertigo" ("it wasn't that you lied/it was just the truth had been laid so bare") and "Say it Two Times" speak of other pains.

But the darkness is pretty much quarantined to the later half of the album. The first half contained such hopeful statements as "Lucky Stars," which could be a radio hit if it fell upon the right ears, and "Be Careful," which functions as ironic and playful warnings to the brutal second half of Flame.

The eulogistic "Travelers" is the coming-to-terms song you'd expect to finish off an album with such a story arc: Hoyt sings, "I have come to a decision not to let these travelers in, 'cause I've taken it down to the ground and I won't build it back again," and as the song ends, crickets begin singing and a train whistle is heard far away.

But then you get reeled back in one more time for a rollicking version of Tom Petty's "Free Girl Now," which, to me, seemed tacked-on at first listen, but seemed necessary the more I listened, turning the tables on Petty's classic kiss-off.

Undoubtedly, fans of the first Mary Janes' album, won't be disappointed by Flame, though it's markedly more pop-oriented, and it's sure to gain a new audience for the band.

Indiana Daily Student, IDS Weekend
Bloomington, Indiana
February 22,2001
Jessican Halverson

The Mary Janes, Flame

Flame burns with passion and a fitting mix of guitars, violin, drums and lilting vocals. The Mary Janes' second release is more than just smoke.

Fourteen tracks spin the story of life, love and independence from a woman's perspective. Yet the album does not succumb to the obnoxious, overly feminist tendencies of many folksy female musicians. Janas Hoyt's songs are truthful and clear. The lyrics are sung with confidence but not an attitude.

Hoyt's voice oscillates between comfort and conflict. One moment it wraps the listener in soul, the next it pierces with anguish.

The Mary Janes' instrumentals complement Hoyt in every way. With the inclusion of steel and slide guitars, violin and viola to the normal setup, Flame is unique. These typically country instruments are thrown in without the twang.

Violinist Heather Craig and violinist/violist Kathy Kolata are two of the best aspects of Flame. These stringed excursions are one of the album's main sources of heat. They take beautiful instruments and give them spirit while creating a swaying sound.

Opening track "Junie Moon" is insightful and sung with a mild smile. With the lines Morning Comes/To those who wait, Hoyt and the band start the CD with a knowing hope that doesn't let down.

This Bloomington-based band has created a worthy collection of acoustic tunes that deserves a listen. Flame is no sophomoric letdown.

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