By Mabel Suen
By Cassie Kohler
By Evan C. Jones
By RFT Music
By RFT Music
By Tom Finkel
By Ryan Wasoba
By Roy Kasten
The texture, timbre and tone of Janas Hoyt's voice belongs to every time and to no time at all. As a former co-conspirator of the Vulgar Boatmen (one of alt-country's great also-rans) and current frontwoman for the Mary Janes, Hoyt is among our most inimitable and consistently rewarding singers. She doesn't just change the meaning of her already emotionally suffused words; she finds the right meaning, the one you never expected. Hoyt tears apart a cutting line such as "You're standing there with your flag unfurled/You better believe it, baby" with a hip, Dylanesque venom, then sings the tradition-wise line "Mama don't wait up for me/We're going downtown" -- and the lines mean but one improbable idea: destiny.
While the band's 1999 debut, The Mary Janes Record, No. 1, found illumination in a tightly channeled electricity, its latest record, Flame, captures the thrill of being in a band and making music in a community of great players in and around Bloomington, Indiana. It's an encyclopedic tour de force, gesturing toward noisy psychedelica, strings and steel chamber sweeps, honky-tonk road songs, home-recorded murder ballads and one killer Tom Petty cover ("Free Girl Now"). The startling title track begins with a back-alley echo of "Waiting on My Man" (had the Velvet Underground ever dabbled in fat pedal steel), pauses for a moment in Byrdland and then rises above it all with anthemic brilliance. The Mary Janes' trajectory has really just begun; it's a flight path worth following, wherever it may lead.
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