The Mary Janes: Flame

Eden Miller

The Mary Janes


Label: Flat Earth
US Release Date: 2001-03-20

With their country-tinged blend of indie-folk rock, The Mary Janes may not be for everyone, but their music is executed with such intelligence and heart, it's impossibly not to admire it. Lead by the soulful voice of Janas Hoyt, Flame is about unapologetic femininity, encompassing the joys and the pains of being a woman, and celebrating both.

Hoyt's lyrics are definitely the center of The Mary Janes' music, and they exhibit a strength and understanding that is refreshing. She recounts her stories with a matter-of-factness that's not without sympathy. On "Better Way", she sings "when it comes to believing in yourself, is it easy to look for somebody else" in such as way as if to say she's been in that position, too. While her tale of abuse "Bruises and Breaks" is a bit overdone, lyrics like "And she cried / You'll never win but she crumbled deep inside" do ring with truth.

Flame's down-home feel does tend to be slightly monotonous, generally carrying the same tempo from one song to the next, but the songs do hold their own individually, from the sweet "Telescope" to the reflective "Downtown". Still, as a unit, these songs, both in terms of content and sound, tend to blend together too much. Once you’ve heard one, you feel like you've heard them all.

While her bandmates have obvious skill, just by hearing Hoyt's voice, you know this is her project. At once wise and wounded, she carries The Mary Janes with her well-placed passion and her love for what she's doing. While the other musicians seem happy to participate in it, Flame is undoubtedly her project. In this way, it feels too much like a solo album and not one by a band.

The Mary Janes or Janas Hoyt can't be faulted for doing anything they're doing, though. Far from trying to fit into any sort of commercial mold, this music feels genuine and unadulterated by any outside forces. It may not be the most progressive or experimental music ever created, but Flame is still among the most daring just for being what it is.

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