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Mary Lou Lord


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Contemporary folk, alternative rock, alternative pop, folk/rock

Status:

Most recent release, Backstreet Angels (2015)

See also:

Mary Lou Lord's site

Wikipedia's entry for Mary Lou Lord

Comparisons:

She reminded me a bit of Amy Rigby in attitude, and Lois (and I guess other K records folk) in sound. (neal)

Other comparisons: Shawn Colvin, Juliana Hatfield, Guided by Voices.

Covers/own material:

Covers others' material, writes her own sometimes

General comments:

Former Boston subway singer who has a great, smoky voice. Most of her early work is solo-acoustic, and she's added more production and bandmates as she's aged and signed major label deals. I much prefer her solo stuff, with just her great vocals and guitar. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Poised for fame and bigness. I hear reports that MTV is about to make her the "next big thing." She is a lot of fun to watch and listen to, although I can't put her in the pantheon of greats for her voice or lyrics. But that's me. (graywolfwla@earthlink.net)

Comments about live performance:

I don't remember if anyone has dropped Mary Lou Lord's name in Ecto yet, but she is a singer/songwriter, apparently from Boston who has been busking around the Puget Sound area for the past year. She played before a very attentive and appreciative audience, accompanied only by her acoustic guitar. In spite of extreme nervousness, she put on an excellent show, displaying a wonderful and distinct voice and guitar style. Her songwriting is already at a high level, in spite of plowing the over-cultivated ground of love. Mark her name as a definite prospect moving up the Ecto minor leagues very quickly. Keep your eyes (and ears :) ) open for her. (dbx@aa.net, 9/93)

Mary Lou Lord was pretty entertaining. She reminded me a bit of Amy Rigby in attitude, and Lois (and I guess other K records folk) in sound. She played with a full band that night, but I didn't see it. In the store it was just her and guitar. I thought it was somewhat hit or miss, but pretty good. She's updated "His Indie World" to "His N.D. World" (for No Depression?, a mag devoted to the Americana bands), so that's a handy dandy sampler of where to listen to for that scene too. I was impressed that she had the nerve to tackle Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", but not that thrilled with the results. I was also impressed that she hyped other people's music without ever once selling her own. She repeatedly raved about Elliott Smith and her opening band, the Raging Teens. Anyway, a fun show. (neal)

Recommended first album:

Mary Lou Lord

Recordings:


Real

Release info:

1993—Deep Music (Santa Monica, CA, U.S.A)—DM 011 (cassette only)

Availability:

Sold at shows; now extremely rare and very difficult to find in its original form.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Mary Lou Lord—vocals and acoustic guitar

Produced by:

Sanford Ponder

Comments:

Mary Lou's first ever recording, and what she sold at very early shows. Includes covers of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Bob Dylan's "Eternal Circle," John Cale's "Andalucia", and Led Zeppelin's "That's The Way," plus three originals, including the witty "Not Necessarily the Bubonic Plague". Very unpolished and raw, but entertaining in its earnestness. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Mary Lou Lord ep

Release info:

1995—Kill Rock Stars, 120 NE State, Ave. #418, Olympia, WA 98501, U.S.A., 360/357-9732

Availability:

Easy to find or order online or from label

Ecto priority:

Must have

Group members:

Mary Lou Lord—vocals and guitar

Guest artists:

Juliana Hatfield sings backup on "Lights are Changing"

Comments:

This is a near-perfect recording, and a testament to the kind of artist that Mary Lou Lord could be. The first song ("Lights are Changing") is electric—the only non-solo song here—and it's one of the finest indie rock tracks I've ever heard. What a great rock song that is, especially the intro.... The last seven tracks are just Mary Lou and her guitar. She shows off her smoky, wispy voice better than ever on those tracks, particularly on the heart-breaking but witty "That Kind of Girl," the lovely "Helsinki", and her own "The Bridge". The standout here is the hilarious "His Indie World," which reads like a who's-who of indie music and is a catty delight. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)


Martian Saints ep

Release info:

1997—Kill Rocks Stars, 120 NE State, Ave. #418, Olympia, WA 98501, U.S.A., 360/357-9732)

Availability:

Fairly easy to order online or from label

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Guest artists:

Nick Saloman on "Martian Saints" and "Salem '76"; Elliot Smith on "I Figured You Out"

Comments:

Mary Lou offers five tracks ranging from superbly excellent to just decent. The definite highlight is a cover called something like "Cinderella Backstreet". It is one of the best Mary Lou songs I've ever heard, highlighting her wonderful voice and guitar playing in a gorgeous, and rather sad, song. A Pete Droge cover, "Sunspot Superman" is also a gem; it's funny and smart. Slightly less compelling is the title track, which features Mary Lou backed up by a band (she's so much less unique when it's not just her and her guitar). Still, the song's goofy attitude helps it along. Mary Lou only wrote one of the five songs, a rather ordinary song about the Salem Witch Trials. Again, here she's backed up by a band.
     Martian Saints compares well to the gorgeous beauty of her eponymous ep from a few years back, but it doesn't measure up as high. She's the best cover artist I've ever heard, but it still would be nice if she wrote some more songs ("His Indie World" and "Helsinki" were some of the many highlights of Mary Lou Lord). Nevertheless, Mary Lou's voice is a rare joy, and there's enough material on Martian Saints to make that album also a joy. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)


Got No Shadow

Release info:

1998—Sony/Work Group—OK67574

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Mary Lou Lord—vocals

Guest artists:

Stephen Silbert, Rob Schnapf—acoustic & electric guitars
Nick Saloman—acoustic guitar, 6 & 12-string electric guitar
Elliott Smith—acoustic guitar
Nels Cline—electric & baritone guitars
Jon Brion—guitar, chamberlin, harmonium
Rusty Anderson—6 & 12- string guitar
Roger McGuinn—electric 12-string guitar
Ethan Johns—slide & steel guitars, accordion
Beale Dabbs—steel guitar
Cait Reed—violin, tin whistle
Ruth Barrett—dulcimer
Money Mark—organ, Hammond B-3
John Sprague, Paul Bushnell—bass
Joe Ranieri, Fred Eltringham, Joshua Freese, Will Goldsmith—drums, percussion
Sharon Celani, Gia Ciambotti, Shawn Colvin—background vocals

Produced by:

Tom Rothrock, Rob Schnapf, Fred Maher

Comments:

It's hard for me not to be extremely cynical about this album. First of all, the cover. It features Mary Lou standing on a street corner playing guitar. That's okay. Then you look inside the liner notes and see she didn't even play at all on the instrument (and that's sad, considering her distinctive playing). This isn't that big of a deal, but it's a testament to what can happen to an artist when they sell out. Mary Lou Lord can be superb—witness her eponymous ep—but here too often she's lost in an overproduction that dulls her charms and accentuates her similarities to other artists. Part of Lord's charm was that she was so distinctive—her smoky voice over a hushed acoustic guitar really stood out. The albums make her sound like every other Shawn Colvin, Juliana Hatfield, and Jewel impersonator out there. Still, for a sellout, it still sounds pretty good. There are some truly beautiful moments here—"Shake Sugaree", "Two Boats", "She Had You", "Throng of Blowtown". But every time I think I'm going to forgive her, I hear the new version of "Lights are Changing" (which strips a great song of its individuality and overpowers Mary Lou's vocals) or the new version of "Some Jingle Jangle Morning" (which kills its frenetic vibe with an over-amplified approach). There are definitely bright spots on this album, and perhaps I should look at it only in its own context, but it's difficult to do so when I know that she can do so much more. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

not as good as i was expecting. too slick? the production just sort of drained all the energy and spunk out of ole mary lou. i dunno. i've been accused of being in a low-fi rut, but sometimes low is mo' ya know? I prefer her eponymous 6 song ep on kill rock stars thank you, though there are some good songs on the album (notably "she had you"). (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Got No Shadow is actually one of my favorite albums, what I call a complete album, one I enjoy from start to finish. There are no weak songs on it, just a great set of catchy folk-pop tunes. It was my first Mary Lou Lord album, and perhaps that makes a big difference as I didn't know about her indie roots; for many years I thought this was her debut. I've since picked up the self-titled ep, which I like, but I don't love it the same way. I appreciate the unpolished rawness of it, but at the same time there are things about her voice that annoy me, and I actually miss the cleaner production of Got No Shadow. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Baby Blue

Release info:

2004—Rubric Records—rub56

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Mary Lou Lord—vocals, guitar

Guest artists:

Nick Saloman—guitar, bass, harp
Jules Fenton—drums
Phil Grosso—keyboards
Matt Kelly—violin, mandolin
Debbie Saloman—backing vocals

Produced by:

NS with CA

Comments:

Baby Blue fits in neatly between Mary Lou Lord's early work and her debut full-length, Got No Shadow. That is to say it's more folk and folk/rock rather than the folk/pop/rock direction Got No Shadow took. It feels somewhat rawer and less produced than "Long Way From Tupelo" feels most like her former work, and unsurprisingly it's the one song that's completely her own. Overall a good album, but her quirky side is missed. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Lord contributed an honorable version of Shawn Colvin's great "Poloroids" to the Safe & Sound compilation, and offers a fun version of "Sugar, Sugar" (with Semisonic) on the Saturday Morning Cartoon Greatest Hits compilation. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)


Thanks to Mark Miazga and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2015-08-23 12:55:37.
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