Mean Mary and her band, the Contrarys, will perform Sept. 23 at LuLuMs Café in Watertown.
Mean Mary could read music before she could read words and wrote original songs at 5 years old. By age 7, she was proficient on vocals, guitar, banjo and violin, and her life became one long road show of events, venues, television, radio and film.
Mean Mary currently plays 11 instruments and tours internationally. She is also an award-winning songwriter and book author, and recently her original banjo song, Iron Horse – the story of a Native American maiden and her horse racing against a train – received the IMA’s Vox Populi award for best Americana song.
Known internationally for her lightning-fast fingers and raw, unmistakable vocal sound, Mean Maryss Sweet Tour will make a stop at LuLuss Café at 7 p.m. No cover will be charged with all ages welcome. LuLuss is at 120 W. Main St. in Watertown.
The show is described as naked and untainted sound of Mean Mary and the Contrarys. The band travels the genres of roots, bluegrass, blues and folk rock with unprecedented and unpredictable ease. Mean Mary is described by No Depression as the “voice of a ragged angel combined with the banjo playing of the devil.” Anything from ghost pirates and barefoot girls to demon guitars and iron horses could romp through a Mean Mary show – or run like mad when Mary enters fast-picking mode.
“Mean” Mary James, the youngest of six children, was born in Geneva, Alabama, though her family lived in Florida, a couple miles below the Alabama line. Her mom, author, Jean James, and dad, World War II veteran, William James, lived a nomadic lifestyle. On one occasion they packed up the family, when Mary was 4 at the time, and moved from Florida to north Minnesota near the Canadian border, to rough it in the wilds.
Mary’s oldest brother, Jim, who had just joined the Navy, sent the family a guitar and a compilation tape of songs he liked. With a battery-powered tape player, the family listened to the music of Hank Williams Jr. and Dolly Parton. It wasn’t long before Mary was singing the songs and vocalizing all the instrumentation. Seeing her talent, mom and dad bought guitar books, and mom started teaching all the children how to play the guitar. Mary and her brother, Frank, were the two who would turn music into a career.
Mary learned to read music before she could read words and was an official singer/songwriter before she had started her first day of kindergarten. With the help of her mom, she wrote her theme song “Mean Mary from Alabam’.” The press immediately baptized her with this handle, and she was Mean Mary ever since.
She works on her television show, produces music for herself and other artists, produces shows and videos – her YouTube videos receive over 4,000 visits a day – tours extensively across the U.S. and overseas, is co-writing a novel trilogy about the music world and is an endorsing artist for Deering Banjos. Deerings have named her its goodtime ambassador. Mary plays 11 instruments and has recorded 14 albums, and her newest is Sweet.