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.