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.
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