Thursday, December 1, 2011


Readers will know of my strange love affair with the music scene of Hamilton, ON, a city that adopted me a few years back and keeps inviting me to their annual Music Awards.  What can I say?  As loyal as I am to my beloved East Coast music scene, each time I visit The Hammer, I come back with more excellent music and memories.  As long as the well is full, I'm going to keep drinking.

How I missed out on Mary Simon before is beyond me, except to say that's the way it goes when you're being pulled 15 different ways, to check out various groups and acts.  She's released five CD's in her career, and showcased at the Awards in 2010, which I somehow didn't see.  I actually didn't see her perform this time either, instead only getting her helping out on mandolin and vocals for her friend Michelle Titian's set (more on Michelle at a later date).  But she did slip me her most recent disc, and whenever her name came up, people I respect said, "you know she's an excellent singer-songwriter, right?".

I do now.  No More Maybes grabbed me immediately, one of those rare listens where you keep waiting for something that you might not love as much as the last song, but not being disappointed, except when it ends.  A roots songwriter, Simon has that ability to surprise you, and even scare you a little bit with how emotionally direct her lyrics are.  In "Blue Eyes", it's a stare-down across the cafe, where she catches somebody checking her out;  "I have a weakness for your blue eyes".  There's no B.S. with this stuff, and since she's opening up her heart, she also gets to ask tough questions:  "If I asked you what you stood for, would the answer be waiting on your lips?", she asks a potential candidate, trying to gauge his morals as much as his charm.

All this comes packaged in twang-and-tough roots rock, think Lucinda without the twang, although she can also breeze into a little more melodic fare as well.  She has a deceptive voice, intimate and tuneful, but when she wants she belts a kick-ass chorus.  There's great guitar throughout, and another hallmark is the solid structure to each number, with memorable bridges and harmonies.  In short, we have a real songwriter here, folks.

So, that's the album, I'm loving it, but what takes it to the upper level is the what it leaves you with after you've finished listening.  I'm hit right in the heart with lines that won't go away;  from "Big Sore Heart", "Time to clean out the closet, time to make a brand new start/Old town, new life, sore heart/Big Sore Heart".  From "Curse", it's:  "More than hungry or tired, I'm just not wired/To be alone/This is my curse."  In "Goodbye", it's "I will say goodbye/Let the story of us gently die", in a sad ballad with deep atmosphere, reminded me of Aimee Mann.  As much as several of the songs rock, and are certainly empowered, the open emotion is near-overwhelming.  Big Sore Heart.

Check her out at

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