Mary Flower
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Mary Flower

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE
Band Blues Acoustic

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No gimmicks or tricks with a Mary Flower record. She knows the blues and plays them with the soul and wit they were created to be played with. Flower more than holds her own with such formidable guests as Curtis Salgado, Dave Frishberg, and Colin Linden. Her playing and vocals show an intimacy with the music that’s felt by few. - Vintage Guitars


Twenty years and nine albums into her recording career, Flower is a superlative fingerstyle guitarist square in the Piedmont tradition. She also excels on lap steel. Easy confidence characterizes her singing style. Following a format of duets this time, she’s joined in her subdued artistry by 10 fellow Oregonians and Nashville dobro player Colin Linden. All of the collaborations are winners. She and jazz pianist Dave Frishberg exchange sly grins laying out the cyanide-laced original “I’m Dreaming of Your Demise.” The guitarist and cellist Gideon Freudmann are at such a high a level of proficiency performing the instrumental “Devil’s Punchbowl” that your heart will beat faster and your blood race. Along with black church-trained singer LaRhonda Steele, Flower gives a moving account of the afterlife on a striking cover version of Rev. Gary Davis’s “Goin’ To Sit Down on the Banks of the River.” No slack-off in authority either when Flower goes it alone on her arrangement of age-old “Scrapper’s Blues,” a salute to Chicago guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. - Downbeat


Mary Flower is an accomplished guitar and lap slide player; the Indiana born singer/songwriter developed a remarkable acoustic finger style and she sings the blues with a warm and rich voice. 2004 she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she recorded her new album together with some of the best jazz, blues and folk musicians, most of the tracks were performed as a duet.

Curtis Salgado on harmonica and Mary on guitar start the musical walk with the classic Muddy Waters song "Hard day blues". Their playing together is awesome and Mary's cool singing captures the listener instantly. Mary's subtle guitar playing allows her musical partners to join in with their own improvisations. Brian Oberlin's mandolin dances with Mary to her self-crafted "Recession Rag" and Alan Hager takes the guitar part when Mary switches to the lap slide guitar on Son House's "Death letter blues", a brilliant performance. "Jitters", another original track, features Mark Vehrencamp on tuba and Colin Linden plays electric Dobro on Mary's hauntingly beautiful song "Way down in the bottom". Then LaRhonda Steele sings the virtuoso harmony vocals on the Rev. Gary Davis song "Goin' to sit down on the banks of the river". Tampa Red's "Boogie Woogie dance" is brought forward by Mary on lap slide and Jesse Withers on bass and Dave Frishberg plays the piano when Mary swings the blues on her original "I'm dreaming of your demise". James Mason adds his fine violin playing on "Miss Delta", a terrific self-crafted Delta blues, and Gideon Freudmann on cello accompanies Mary's intoxicating performance on "Devil's punchbowl". Elizabeth Cotten's melancholic blues "Shake sugaree" features Johnny B. Connolly on button accordion and with a laid down solo performance on Scrapper Blackwell's "Scrapper's blues" Mary's musical walk comes to an end.
Mary Flower's fourth album is a masterpiece of acoustic guitar music. Her incredible finger-style and lap slide playing, her beautiful singing and the first class guest musicians invite the listener to a breathtaking musical journey. Visit www.maryflower.com and enjoy! - FolkWorld


On her ninth studio recording, Misery Loves Company, Portland, Oregon, guitarist and vocalist Mary Flower continues her tradition of marrying acoustic blues with touches of ragtime, folk, and jazz, a musical admixture that truly works. Beyond the tight song arrangements, expert musicianship, and crystal clear production, Misery Loves Company’s crowning achievement is reflected in Flower’s ability to capture her musical inspiration—the rural, romantic South—in word and sound. Her unpretentious vocal style, compelling guitar work, and minimalist arrangements perfectly capture the feeling of gently floating down a slowly moving river or strolling down an isolated dirt road. Flower is not a southerner, but her songs embody the South’s mythos and mystique.

Aside from the solo performance, Scrapper’s Blues, which concludes the album, each song is set up as a duet between Flower (vocal and guitar) and a different musical guest; the array of instruments (slide guitar, bass, mandolin, harmonica, violin, tuba, cello, piano, and accordion) keeps Misery Loves Company sounding fresh and in constant motion. The instrumental interplay is always interesting, often provocative, and sometimes breathtaking as in the case of Flower’s composition Way Down in the Bottom. Her finger-picking guitar work beautifully complements Colin Linden’s echoing slide on electric dobro. Beyond this inter-guitar majesty, Flower’s haunting, laconic voice and dark lyrics, a story of descending into a dark void of despondence, make Way Down in the Bottom the centerpiece of the disc. The ragtime influenced Recession Rag (another Flower original), features the same instrumental prowess as both Flower and mandolin player Brian Oberlin provide the space for each to shine. Even songs that feature unique instrumentation for standard blues songs, Jitters (tuba), Shake Sugaree (accordion), and Devil’s Punchbowl (cello), work because the focus remains on Flower and her ability to spin a story, evoke a mood, or both (the lone exception is the violin accompaniment to Miss Delta).

While the revolving cast of talent certainly helps make Misery Loves Company a success, Flower is talented enough to pull this off without relying on outside help. Her guitar playing, finger-picking or lap slide, is, by turn, sensual, shimmering, and sublime. She overlays both guitar styles to wonderful effect in the Tampa Red song Boogie Woogie Dance and her own composition Devil’s Punchbowl. Her vocal style, seemingly free from studio effects, is warm, straightforward, and alluring. Her cover song selection is tasteful (from Son House to Muddy Waters to Reverend Gary Davis) and her own compositions, especially Way Down in the Bottom and Devil’s Punchbowl, are memorable and bear repeated listening. No doubt, listeners will find the CD’s title ironic; Misery Loves Company will actually leave most listeners “un-miserable”—deeply satisfied and enriched from the experience. - Living Blues


With her warm contralto and dazzling skills as an instrumentalist and arranger, Mary Flower has cemented her status as one of the most dynamic performers on the acoustic blues circuit. Though she often appears solo in her stage act, on her ninth solo release, Misery Loves Company, Flower does the studio equivalent of announcing to the audience: “And now, I’d like to bring up to the stage my good friend . . . ” The 11 duets (and one solo piece) on the album feature artists ranging from blues harpist Curtis Salgado and guitarist Colin Linden to soul singer LaRhonda Steele. Flower sets the groove, fingerpicking a 1934 Gibson L-00 in a fluid, highly personalized version of the ragtimey Piedmont style or playing lap slide on a square-neck 1950s Gibson HG-2. Her accompanists don’t greatly alter the trajectory of these songs, but they do help bring out the inherent swing in Flower’s music. Mark Vehrencamp’s tuba adds a bit of whimsy to “Jitters,” an original rag, while Dave Frishberg’s jazz piano provides just the right amount of pathos to Flower’s Tin Pan Alley–inspired minor blues, “I’m Dreaming of Your Demise.” And Flower’s son Jesse Withers’s rock-solid bass lets Flower go to town lap-style on Tampa Red’s “Boogie Woogie Dance” in open-D tuning. Flower, who started her career as a folkie, is now deep in the pocket of the country blues, and there are few musicians in the genre bringing as much creative spark and low-key mojo to this century-old music. - Acoustic Guitar


Discography

"Misery Loves Company", Yellow Dog Records (2011)
"Bridges", Yellow Dog Records (2009)
"Instrumental Breakdown", Yellow Dog Records (2007)
"Bywater Dance", Yellow Dog Records (2005)
"Ragtime Gal" (2003)
"Rosewood & Steel" (2003)
"Ladyfingers" (2001)
"Honey from the Comb" (1999)
"Blues Jubilee" (1994)

Instructional
Blues Guitar Arrangements (2007)
Crash Course in Open Tunings (2007)
Fingerstyle Blues in E (2006)
Ragtime Guitar (2006)
Arrangements in Dropped-D Tuning (2006)

Photos

Bio

First and foremost, Mary Flower is a world-class guitarist and lap slide player who swings the blues. Along the way, she’s mastered the intricate, harmonically subtle Piedmont style, with its good-timey, ragtime feel. The Piedmont style forms the foundation of much of her work, but she’s an unrivaled interpreter of Mississippi blues and an ingenious composer in her own right whose tunes take American music into uncharted waters.

In the rarefied atmosphere where Mary operates, she’s recognized everywhere as one of the pre-eminent fingerstyle guitarists who continue in the rich acoustic blues tradition. In fact, she’s twice placed in the top three at the prestigious National Fingerpicking Championship in Winfield, Kansas–the only woman to do so. She has been nominated in two categories, “Acoustic Artist” and “Acoustic Album” for the 2012 Blues Music Awards presented by the Blues Foundation in Memphis . That’s remarkable enough, but Flower goes beyond technique.

Mary has also appeared on radio programs such as A Prairie Home Companion and the BBC, as well as played at numerous folk and blues festivals including the Kerrville Folk Festival, King Biscuit Blues Festival, Merlefest, and Calgary Folk Festival. Flower is in demand for festivals, concerts and guitar workshops on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mary Flower is a warm singer who ranges far in the byways of blues, pop and jazz for the kind of down-home yet sophisticated material she feels comfortable with. Mary brings smarts and sublime equipoise to her music – you’ll feel happier after listening to her!