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John & Mary


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Contemporary folk, or maybe pop (mainstream or alternative).

Status:

Most recent release, Peace Bridge (as John & Mary & the Valkyries, 2007)

See also:

Wikipedia's entry on John and Mary

10,000 Maniacs web site

The Ectophile's Guide entry for 10,000 Maniacs

Comparisons:

10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant, June Tabor, Maddy Prior, Kate & Anna McGarrigle (the latter mostly on the few traditional songs they do). (8/00, neal)

Covers/own material:

Own material

General comments:

John Lombardo was originally part of 10,000 Maniacs, departed and formed John & Mary, and then returned to 10,000 Maniacs. Departed again in 2001.

It is nearly impossible to think of John & Mary without 10,000 Maniacs coming to mind. After all John Lombardo, was one of the most influential members of 10,000 Maniacs, and he carried much of the sound he'd cultivated in his former band into his partnership with singer/violist Mary Ramsey. In addition, guitarist Robert Buck and drummer Jerome Augustyniak (both longtime members of 10,000 Maniacs) were heavily involved with both John & Mary studio albums. But the contemplative, vivacious music that resulted from John Lombardo and Mary Ramsey's six-year duo-ship is some of the most strikingly original and breathtaking material to be heard, beautifully defined by Lombardo's enthralling 12-string acoustic guitar and Ramsey's rich, classically trained vocals and viola. Together, they created some of the most brilliant pieces of art to emerge from the 20th century. (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

Recommended first album:

Personally I tend to prefer Victory Garden over The Weedkiller's Daughter, but I would say they are both fairly equal as far as someone buying them and listening to them. (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

I'm the other way. I think The Weedkiller's Daughter is a stronger and more diverse album. However, I can't imagine anyone liking one and disliking the other. (8/00, neal)

Recordings:


Victory Garden

Release info:

1991—Rykodisc—RCD 10203

Availability:

Out of print and hard to find. Purchasing John & Mary's music isn't so much a matter of what to get, but how to get it. In 1999, the Maniacs web site made the remaining new copies of Victory Garden and The Weedkiller's Daughter available through mailorder, but these supplies were quickly devoured. (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

Ecto priority:

High, especially for fans of 10,000 Maniacs and that style of folk rock. (10/00, neal)

Group members:

Mary Ramsey—vocals, viola, violin, piano, organ
John Lombardo—guitars, bass, vocals

Guest artists:

Robert Buck—guitar, mandolin
Jerome Augustyniak—drums, backing vocals
Armand John Petri—percussion
Ronnie Lane—vocals
Joey Molland—vocals, guitar
Augie Meyers—accordion

Produced by:

John Lombardo

Comments:

A quiet, folkish record dominated by Lombardo's keen sense of melody, with haunting undertones that seem to lurk somewhere just beneath the sweet, chiming atmosphere. That combined with the thoughtful lyrics and Rob Buck's shimmering trademark guitar style make the album draw comparisons to old 10,000 Maniacs records (particularly The Wishing Chair) but there are clear distinctions between Ramsey and Natalie Merchant. Unlike Merchant's outspoken narrative style, Ramsey becomes her frantic, energetic subjects, such as the immigrant Marika in the upbeat "Red Wooden Beads" and the restless housewife in "The Open Window". Her personal reflections are no less astounding, beautifully executed in the exquisite folk lullabies "Piles of Dead Leaves" and "Rags of Flowers". Lombardo's lyrics are as contemplative and intriguing as ever, from the visionistic tale of "Pram" to the, surprising confessional attitude of "We Have Nothing", the later featuring background vocals from Ronnie Lane of Small Faces. (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

This is a lovely album, and undoubtedly a pleasure for anyone who stumbles across it. For many, it is the album that logically follows 10,000 Maniacs' The Wishing Chair In fact, it seems to continue more in the vein of The Wishing Chair than what the 10,000 Maniacs were actually doing at the time. As a result of that, when the album came out, it sounded somewhat like a step backwards in time. That's kind of a spurious complaint, particularly since John & Mary have as much right to that sound as the 10,000 Maniacs, and do it arguably as well. But it made this album sound kind of like a solid 10,000 Maniacs album, rather than a band with their own voice. Nevertheless, the world could use more old 10,000 Maniacs albums, and I'm very fond of this one. (10/00, neal)


The Weedkiller's Daughter

Release info:

1993—Rykodisc—RCD 10259

Availability:

Out of print and hard to find. Purchasing John & Mary's music isn't so much a matter of what to get, but how to get it. In 1999, the Maniacs web site made the remaining new copies of Victory Garden and The Weedkiller's Daughter available through mailorder, but these supplies were quickly devoured. (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

Ecto priority:

High, especially for fans of 10,000 Maniacs and that style of folk rock. (10/00, neal)

Group members:

Mary Ramsey, John Lombardo

Guest artists:

Robert Buck, Stan Barton, Andrew Case, Joanne Ramsey, Jerome Augustyniak, Scott Miller, Bob Wiseman, Stan Barton, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Alex Chilton, Martin Simpson, Joe Rozler, David Kane, Bryan Eckenrode, Alfred B. Frenning, Robbie Hausmann.

Produced by:

John Lombardo, Armand John Petrii

Comments:

This time a whole clique of like-minded musicians, including Blue Rodeo's keyboardist Bob Wiseman, innovative Canadian vocalist Mary Margaret O'Hara, superb mandolinist Stan Barton, pioneering singer/songwriter/guitarist Alex Chilton and of course Buck and Augustyniak, were involved and the result is more atmospheric. The sophisticated topics remain similar, from tales of dyslexia ("Clare's Scarf"), to rejoicing in a time of peace ("Two World's Parted"), to thoughtful recollections ("Angels of Stone", "One Step Backward"). The sound is more fleshed out, retaining its predecessor's folk edge. Weedkiller also reveals more of a confidence in Ramsey's enchanting vocals, and recording in general. It contains her first solo composition, "Maid of the Mist" as well as her own arrangement of the traditional "The Poor Murdered Woman". (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

This is the album where John & Mary came into their own. Mary's voice has gained a lushness and depth, so that it is now easily distinguished from Natalie Merchant's. Plus, the songs no longer all have that same rhythmic feel of the old 10,000 Maniacs' songs. Instead, you have instrumentals highlighting Mary Ramsey's viola playing, a traditional song that could easily belong on a June Tabor album, and a large number of catchy folk/pop vignettes that are startlingly vivid tales (see previous paragraph). A low key masterpiece. (10/00, neal)


John & Mary and their band LIVE

Release info:

[Originally released as a cassette available only from the band. Later re-issued as a limited edition CD.] Original pressings are pretty much impossible to locate. I myself was fortunate enough to acquire one of the 1999 CD issues. (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

Availability:

Probably completely unavailable now.

Ecto priority:

Low, but kind of fun to have. (7/00, neal)

The reason I think the live record is a really interesting novelty is because it almost has an all-star lineup, what with John Ashton and Victor DeLorenzo. I've always thought hearing well known musicians from different backgrounds mix and match to be very cool. For me that makes it worth looking for even if you're not a huge fan. But it doesn't really matter, because no one will ever find it again anyways! (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

Group members:

Mary Ramsey—vocals, viola, violin
John Lombardo—6- & 12-String guitars, vocal
Victor DeLorenzo—snare, tom-tom, cymbal
Brad Jones—bass guitar, vocals
John Ashton—lead guitar and effects

Guest artists:

John Rozler—accordion

Comments:

This is a cassette of shows performed at the World Cafe/WXPN (Philadelphia, PA), Tinker St. Cafe (Woodstock, NY), Hungry Charley's (Syracuse, NY) and The Pink Flamingo (Buffalo, NY) in September and October of 1993. It contains a lot of songs from the two John & Mary albums, as well as the 10,000 Maniacs' "Can't Ignore The Train", a traditional song, and covers of John Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night" and The Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty In Pink". It's nice to hear the live versions of the songs, but the sound quality is often fairly poor, keeping this from being the treat it could be. (7/00, neal)

Between 1993 and 1994 John & Mary toured in and around Buffalo with Brad Jones (bass), former Psychedelic Furs member John Ashton (lead guitar) and founding Violent Femmes' percussionist Victor DeLorenzo (drums). Cuts from these performances were made into the cassette release John & Mary and their band LIVE. Available in 1994 exclusively through John & Mary's fan club, this excellent live collection included lead vocals from Lombardo on the 10,000 Maniacs single "Can't Ignore the Train" as well as a cover of the Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty in Pink". The record that would prove to be John & Mary's final duo release became a sought-after collector's item and was later re-issued by 10,000 Maniacs' website at highly limited supplies on compact disc. (8/00, RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)


Thanks to neal Copperman for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2014-05-26 15:32:42.
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