I was underwhelmed by Mean Mary’s 2018 album, ‘Blazing’ but this talented Alabama born artist has upped her game for this highly entertaining release, the first of a planned quartet of albums and EPs.
Once again she shows off her expertise on the banjo (she’s an endorsing artist for Deering Banjos) but more importantly, she feeds these skills into a set of lively songs that are full of drama and good humour.
In part, it’s a family affair. Several of the tunes were co-written with her mother,Jean,and her brother also appears on the record.
Frank James plays 12-string guitar and his baritone voice can be heard on Bridge Out, an offbeat road song where the duo contemplate the pros and cons of attempting to drive over the gap left by an absent bridge rather than seeking an alternate route.
Mean Mary herself is a woman with resilience and self-determination as the fascinating bio on her website reveals. She first performed on television aged just 6 playing the country standard Long Tall Texan on an acoustic guitar that’s as big as she is. As an adult she overcame an almost fatal car accident which paralyzed her right vocal cord.
Mary refused to accept the initial diagnosis that she’d never sing again and, in musical terms, this fighting spirit shines through in No Man’s Land where she stands firm in a “land of grim mystique.”
A more romantic vein is evident in the opening tune, Cranberry Gown, and in the waltz rhythms of A Kiss Can Hide Two Faces.
The expertly sequenced 11-track collection ends with Clouds Roll By a pop ballad that maintains that ”The only truth is that love will set us free” and whets the appetite for the second part of the portrait which is provisionally scheduled for release in September 2023.