Blazing (Hell is Naked – soundtrack)
A Charmingly Tough Soundtrack
“Mean” Mary James is one tough cookie. When she very young, Mary’s parents lived frontier style, building their own log cabin in the Minnesota woods, where Mary’s mother was forced to shoot a seven-foot tall black bear that attacked their camp. Mary wrote her first song at the age of six (“Mean Mary from Alabam,” which gave her the nickname,) played banjo and sang on a television show until she was nine years old, and later survived a car accident which nearly destroyed her vocal cords. After overcoming that, she began touring and playing music full time, both in the states and overseas, and has now won enough awards to easily overfill a mantlepiece. But Mary James is not even close to slowing down.
Blazing, her latest album, is a “soundtrack” of sorts to Hell is Naked, a mystery novel co-written by Mary and her mother, Jean. Now, I have yet to read the novel, but can attest most assuredly to some fine music on this album. Mary’s voice is in fine form on these songs, and she picks a mean banjo and plays some wonderful gypsy fiddle on several tracks. The instrumentals are some of my favorite tracks on this album. From the gypsy-like “Lights, Gun, Action,” the charming “Rainy,” and the foot-stomping downhill race of “Blazing,” itself, Mary knows how to create a mood with sparse instrumentation. The stirring take of the classic folk song “Rock of Ages” gives Mary a choice to showcase her emotive voice as well as more exemplary banjo playing. Mary covers quite a range of styles on this album, ending it with the song “I Face Somewhere,” where Mary plays heavily reverbed electric guitar and gets a little bit of help from her band, the Contrarys.
Hearing these songs, and the varied emotions and situations they deal with, definitely makes me want to read the book. Looking forward to it. Oh, and if you ever get the chance to see Mean Mary live, please do so, she puts on a solid rockin’ show.
Review courtesy Roy Peak
Released July 6th 2018