the mary janes

Spring 2000
Bob Pomeroy

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

Several years ago, the Mary Janes put out an absolutely fabulous single. I loved that little plastic disc and wondered if I'd ever hear from them again. One of the things that excited me about the Mary Janes was lead singer Jans Hoyt's tenure in another of my favorite under-recorded bands; the Vulgar Boatmen. The last Vulgar Boatmen record came out in 1992 and that first Mary Janes single came out in 1994. It's been a long wait, in part due to motherhood. Sometimes, patience pays off.

Record No. 1 delivers on the promise of the 1994 single. The disc opens with an elegy for the Vulgar Boatmen called "Shooting Star." The seven-minute track develops slowly, letting the listener grasp the nuance of Janas' voice and guitar work while introducing us to the string section of Kathy Kolata, Carolyn Balfe and Geraldine Haas.

This is a lush cross between American roots rock and chamber music. There are traces of the drive and liveliness that I loved in the Vulgar Boatmen with a lighter touch and a woman's perspective. This is wonderful music that really deserves to be heard. Let's just hope that it doesn't take another five years for the Mary Janes to record again. This is very, very good music.

LUKE, Leicester, UK
Winter 1999-2000
Rob Forbes

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

I believe there used to be an Irish band called the Mary Janes, around the early 1990's, but this isn't them. These Mary Janes hail from Indiana and began originally as a side project for singer-songwriter Janas Hoyt of the Vulgar Boatmen. Now, I've no idea what the Vulgar Boatmen sounded like, so I won't be drawing any comparisons between the two bands, though i can report that if they're as good at what they do as the Mary Janes, then they're well worth looking out for.

Record No. 1 is an absolute gem and may well be the answer and inspriation behind such questions as: "what would the Velvet Underground have sounded like had they come from the country" or "if the Cowboy Junkies were less self-conscious and started working out..." or "what if Pete Buck and John Cale backed Dylan in the late 70's and..." -- you get the idea.

It doesn't do the album any harm that it begins with "Shooting Star", a near 8-minute epic which is launched upon an unprepossessing gently strummed guitar and ends in controlled noise, not unlike the Cocteau's produced by Phil Spector - there we go again! "Wish I Could Fly", "Throwing Pennies" and "She Flies Away" are all just as good and display the band's ability to incorporate instruments such as violin and harmonica into a sound that is vibrant, accessible and thoroughly contemporary. Like it says - Record No. 1. (9 of 10)

Sticks and Stones
Spring, 2000
John Kenyon

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

This offshoot of the Vulgar Boatmen carries that influence with it throughout this debut, but lead Mary Jane'r Janas Hoyt imbues this music with a darker, moodier sound than that of her former mates. On the opener, "Shooting Star" that moodiness manifests itself as a wonderfully textured, near-eight minute dirge. On "Part of Me Now," it works its way to the surface of a murky tune in a blasting chorus. Hoyt is joined by an able cast that gives these alt-rock songs a countryish feel. Though only nine songs long, each track is given room to evolve and breathe, making this a compelling album-length listen.

All Music Guide
December, 1999
Rick Anderson

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1      

What with their Nashville record label and conspicuous fiddle and steel guitar, the Mary Janes are generally considered to be a part of the phenomenon. But the group's actual sound, which is slow, gently jangly and swooningly tuneful, is about as far from country tradition as you can get and still feature fiddle and steel guitar. In fact, "Shooting Star, " which opens the album with a seven-minute stretch of dreamy vocals, plodding drums and incredibly affecting melody, evinces no other group as much as This Mortal Coil.

"Wish I Could Fly" is more clearly rooted in country-rock, or at least folk-rock: built on a foundation of guitar arpeggio and fiddle ostinato, it's an irresistible piece of sweet, yearning guitar pop. Singer and guitarist Janas Hoyt tends to whisper, and she shies away from liquid consonants unnecessarily (a la Natalie Merchant and Eddie Reader), but her delivery never seems less than perfect in the context of the song. This is a rare gem of a debut from a band that already deserves far wider recognition.

September, 1999
George H. Lewis

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

I always believed in everything-god, magic, myth, truth. I have always been compulsively after the truth," says Janas Hoyt, singer, songwriter and musical leader of Bloomington, Indiana's The Mary Janes. Truth, and the peace it can fashion out of loss and pain, is a theme that runs strong through the band's first album-length effort, Record No. 1. Meticulously produced by Hoyt and beautifully recorded and engineered by Mark Maher and John Strohm, the album is a musical and emotional tour de force that mixes classical string arrangements with, among other things, Carter Family folk, piney woods gospel, and streetwise, Lou Reed-style rock and roll-a unique and improbable mix that is tied together by Hoyt's emotionally driven, but fragile voice and the soaring violin work of Caroline Balfe and Kathy Kolata, who has been with Hoyt in The Mary Janes since the group's inception in 1993.

The songs on this album are carefully built from minimalist, roots-type beginnings, into multi-layered, sonically textured gems that use god, magic and myth to pull the listener in, emotionally, to a point as close to the truth as one can bear to get. Take, for example, "Never Felt Better," a song that begins with a hushed, acoustic guitar and Hoyt, sounding like a late-night Patsy Cline, telling us, "I buckled my bows, tied off my debts, / I howled at the moon, smoked chain cigarettes. / I cut out my heart, spit it into the fire-watched the steam rise and rain down like desire . . . and"-with a hint of surprise in her voice-"I never felt better." A pause, then, with new-found assurance-"I never felt better!"

At the last moment, without notifying Hoyt or The Mary Janes, Nashville's Delmore Records changed the sequencing on this recording before releasing it. With some discs, it might not much matter; however, this album is not just a collection of songs that could be shuffled about. It is constructed as carefully as a piece of classical music; therefore, this unauthorized re-sequencing was bound to cause havoc with the overall musical and emotional design of the recording. Fortunately, the digital age brings with it the ability to reprogram a disc, so Record No. 1 can be heard as Hoyt planned if re-sequenced at home in the following order: "Wish I Could Fly"; "Throwing Pennies"; "She Flies Away"; "Never Felt Better"; "Sigh to Signal"; "Part of Me Now"; "Final Days"; "What a Friend"; "Shooting Star." This review assumes Hoyt's original sequencing in discussing the emotional and artistic strengths of this recording.

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The Rocket, Seattle, WA
August 11, 1999
Deborah Malarek

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

"Shooting Star," the first track of the Mary Janes' debut disc, starts off unassumingly, characterized only by a gentle rhythm guitar and the delicate voice of Janas Hoyt quietly exhaling stark words of regret: "A blaze of love/I've been burned by it before." Then, things start to build. Textures slowly mount, first with a cascading piano, then willowy violin, viola and cello surface and soon the lone voice has a harmonious double. The lyrics ascend, too, to a place of unbearable pain, but also to a place of strength and survival, as the whole thing crescendos at nearly eight minutes of pure pop heaven.

It's a befitting introduction to the Mary Janes, a band that began as a side project for Hoyt, a former member of Indiana's Vulgar Boatmen. Of the disc's nine tracks, eight of them are Hoyt originals, songs that blend pop, folk, rock and classical string arrangements into a cohesive vision that's emotionally both dark and victorious. Hoyt plays electric and acoustic guitars, piano and percussion. She is joined by the strings, bass, drums and an occasional harmonica riff.

Songs range in mood from the fast pop of "Sigh to Signal" and "She Flies Away" to the heart-wrenching "Final Days," dedicated to a friend grieving the death of her son. As Hoyt sings "I want to know/Are these our final days," she pulls you into the depths of her despair, but refuses to let you, or herself, wallow, rebounding with "I guess I'll try to make my life/A place that I can always find/I guess I'll try to reach the stars." Record No. 1 is a thoughtful album and ends as gracefully as it begins.

Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln, NE
July 9, 1999
Daniel R. Moser

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1      

The Mary Janes deliver graceful, stately folk-rock. Hoyt is a fine songwriter and singer who sometimes sounds a bit like a less precious Natalie Merchant, and the group's secret weapons are Caroline Balfe and Kathy Kolata, whose violin and viola playing really define the band's mystique.

At their best on Record No. 1 -- "Final Days" and the nearly eight-minute "Shooting Star", for instance -- the Mary Janes start in wispy, hushed tones (a la Nico's singing with the Velvet Underground) and then build from there to a growing, but never out of control, intensity.

The Big Takeover
June, 1999
Tucker Petertil

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

This excellent CD starts out with a leisurely-paced pretty little song spread out over about eight minutes, building up to an unforced power that's all too rare these days. Although the CD as a whole has a Country feel, it has all the guts of rock without the celebratory, rootless homogenization of Garth and Trisha.

Like Fairport Convention in their prime, when both Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson were aboard, The Mary Janes have the vocal and instrumental chops to really explore the details of a song without ever diluting its force. Backed by violin, viola, and cello, plus pedal steel guitar, organ and harmonica, singer Janas Hoyt sings with a quiet restraint that makes the occasional Nirvana-scale eruptions all the more powerful.

Staying with comfortable down-home songs, the performances will pierce your ironic armor with their penetrating warmth. Like the still waters that run deep, this unassuming, little sleeper of a CD is in all actuality a real knockout.

Seattle Weekly
Seattle, WA
June 17, 1999
Scott Holter

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

Songwriter Janas Hoyt of Bloomington, Indiana, created the Mary Janes as a creative outlet from her regular band, the Vulgar Boatmen. In fact, the band's name comes from "Mary Jane," a song off the Boatmen's You and Your Sister LP from a decade ago. But considering the fresh sounds of the Mary Janes' debut record--a swarm of textured orchestration and stripped-down arrangements--Hoyt made the correct decision in making the Mary Janes priority number one.

Her tenuously plaintive vocals cleverly splice into the pop-bordering-on-classical music, layers of mandolin, pedal steel, piano, and a haunting violin similar to the Silos' "Cuba" and Dylan's "Desire." The diversified folk/rock tone mixes Carter Family spirit, Velvet Underground strings, and Pete Buck guitar; the Mary Janes improvise their two- and three-tiered melodies as often as their ever-changing lineup (only Hoyt and fellow Boat-woman Kathy Kolata remain from MJ's original 1993 roster).

While there's plenty of evidence of old-country influences on Record No. 1, the 37-year-old Hoyt wears a rock-and-roll heart on her sleeve. The record's opening cut, "Shooting Star," begins with a sparse guitar accompaniment and builds over seven minutes to a booming crescendo that's consonant with the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." On "Throwing Pennies," Hoyt borrows a riff from Guided by Voices' "Blimps Go 90," then turns the song over to a violin covered with John Cale's fingerprints. "She Flies Away" is a perfect pop song, with its provocative harmonica leading each verse straight into a harmonious sing-along chorus. These nine songs, which clock in at a tad under 40 minutes, leave you begging for more. The record's title hints that you just might get it.

The Memphis Flyer
Memphis, TN
June 17, 1999
Mark Jordan

From the slowly snowballing eight-minute opening track, "Shooting Star" to the cathartic closer "Final Days," the first album from Bloomington's the Mary Janes, Record No. 1, brilliantly accomplishes what all albums should and very few do: establish a strong, distinctive mood without ever becoming repetitive. Already earning my early nomination for best debut of the year, the MJs have delivered one of alt-country's first great complete albums, a sort of roots-rock Dark Side Of The Moon.

The never-sought missing link between the Velvet Underground and Lonesome Jubilee-era John Mellencamp, the MJs, featuring Janas Hoyt on guitars and vocals, are an offshoot of the early '90s cult band/collective the Vulgar Boatmen. (The band's name is taken from a track on the VB's first album, You And Your Sister.) From that earlier group, the MJs retain a canny gift for pop songcraft and a knack for economical playing. You can still hear the VB's dynamic playfulness, but ringleader Hoyt has grounded her rock deep in folk roots, as best personified by Caroline Balfe and Kathy Kolata's soaring and ubiquitous fiddle riffs.

KCMU 90.3
Seattle, WA
June, 1999
Don Yates, Music Director

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

Fronted by Janas Hoyt (ex-Vulgar Boatmen), this Bloomington, Indiana band's remarkable debut album features a delicate, atmospheric rock sound informed by both down-home roots and arty chamber music.

Chicago Tribune
June 6, 1999
Linda Ray

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

Janas Hoyt, formerly of the Vulgar Boatmen, sings the private thoughts of a real-world woman, in forward motion through litter and loveliness as if they were the same thing. Hoyt steers her voice and string-heavy band into pure pop, then curbs them with indie grit.

Her suggestive seven-minute opener, "Shooting Star," is a moodier, more elegant take on Lucinda Williams' subject matter in "Right in Time." Just as intriguing is the one-minute prayer "What a Friend," in which Hoyt's mix buries her child-like whisper into a conscience.
Sharps and Flats
April 20, 1999
Bill Wyman

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

"Shooting Star," the first song on the Mary Janes' debut album, starts out soft and resigned -- "Pale Blue Eyes" as reinterpreted through the uncynical mind of a Midwestern woman. But as a violin, a thumping drum and other voices kick in, you begin to understand that the woman, Janas Hoyt, is after something more than a sanitized Velvets retread; the song, nearly eight minutes long, turns out to be epically scaled, and emotionally afire. One doesn't want to spoil the surprises of such an ambition; suffice to say that, in the end, Hoyt and her quiet, six-piece ensemble achieve something in rock truly rare: the truly orgasmic.

..."Record No. 1" is an unprepossessing gem -- entrancingly subdued, empty of postmodern posturing, filled instead with older and, some would say, better things: Beauty, ambition and something like grace.

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Indianapolis Star-News
Record Picks
April 18, 1999
David Lindquist

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1      

There are a handful of contemporary female vocalists who can guarantee ethereal chills every time they step to a microphone. The untouchables are Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star and Mary Lorson of Madder Rose.

Janas Hoyt can be added to the list, but be sure to affix an asterisk.

Unlike Timmins, Sandoval or Lorson, she isn't the singer in some guy's band. Hoyt is singer, songwriter and creative force in the Mary Janes -- a Bloomington collective that has prepared a debut release suitable for "record of the summer" if not record of the year.

The fingerprints of insurgent country (violin, harmonica and pedal steel guitar) are found on Record No. 1, but Hoyt has the outsized rock 'n roll spirit of a young Lou Reed or Bruce Springsteen.

...Hoyt, known in area circles for her work with the Vulgar Boatmen, has forged a golden interpretation of "the Bloomington sound."

Indianapolis, Indiana
March 13, 1999
Steve Hammer

The Mary Janes, Record No. 1

Bloomington's the Mary Janes evolved from the legendary Hoosier pop band The Vulgar Boatmen in the same way that Athena leapt, fully clothed and girded for battle from the loins of Zeus. They are not so much a side project as a supernatural force of humanity, compassion and good old pop sensibility in the Michael Stipe sense of the term.

Make no mistake about it: This is a band that matters.

...Within the span of 20 minutes, the band can evoke the Velvet Underground, the Go-Go's, R.E.M., the Mysteries of Life and 10,000 Maniacs by capturing the thoughtfulness, energy and spirit those artists used on their greatest recordings. But by no means is the group derivative; it's just that they can channel the same verve as the greats...

...Hoyt's voice is a lace doily made out of steel, a beautiful instrument that is as easily comfortable in any musical context. In certain songs, the guitars can take on a Peter Buck sound; in others, you'd swear that you'd never heard a band that sounded like this...

...Every song is well-written and tastefully performed by these masters of their craft...

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Irish Voice, New York City
March 3, 1999
Tom Dunphy
Fronted by singer/songwriter Janas Hoyt, the band uses fiddles, mandolins, and dobros to create a high, lonesome sound that owes as much to the Velvet Underground as it does to Hank Williams. Songs like "Part Of Me Now" and "Shooting Star" are at once sparse and complex. They're also compelling. They've just released their first full length CD, titled Record No. 1, appropriately enough.

Billboard Magazine
Reviews and Previews
January 16, 1999 and large the 17 performers here are from the young crowd. Syd Straw and the Skeletons take "Harper Valley" and rev it up to about 300 mph. The Mary Janes convert "I'm Not Ready Yet" into a sultry barroom blues. Other standouts on this oddly effective album include Mary Cutrufello, Whiskeytown, and Iris DeMent.

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girl telescope    b/w baby honey
delmore records
produced and engineered by paul mahern
at sonic iguana studios, lafayette, indiana
written by janas hoyt

Rock Tracks, July 9, 1994

Here's a low-key, polite pop offering. This Indianapolis-based female duo creates an eclectic, acoustic sound from electric violas, sparse guitars, and innocent vocals. Singer Janas Hoyt's frail voice is both vulnerable and demanding. Also check out the engaging flip side, "Baby Honey".

College Music Journal
New Music Report, May 2, 1994

The Mary Janes are actually a side project for two members of the Indianapolis band the Vulgar Boatmen. With Janas Hoyt on guitar and vocals and Kathy Kolata on acoustic and electric violas, the duo recalls the more country and folk-inspired presence found in Mazzy Star.

Its first single, "Telescope", is built around Hoyt's wispy vocals and the gentle texturing of acoustic and electric guitar melody. Dipping into a more southern flavor, "Baby Honey" uses only a sparse acoustic strum and a rippling viola whine to accompany Hoyt's plaintive tones.

the single is now out of print. however, we do have a few still available if you would like a copy.

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