Mary Ann recently released Timber & Nails, her first record in five years and her third solo album to date. Hers is the sound of a songwriter growing cozy in her own skin. Her words and music come from the soul of someone who has finally, after a long search, discovered her identity as an artist. The self-employed graphic artist and RISD graduate has long been a strong and positive force in local music, often volunteering her time and talents for worthy causes. Being “folky” is more than a style of music you fancy, and Mary Ann embodies more than being just a topflight musician and artist. Purchase your copy of Timber & Nails.
Changing producers can make a big difference for a recording artist. Just ask Mary Ann Rossoni, whose second solo album, Downcity, is a bit of a departure from her first solo outing, Half Slips & Garters. Rossoni is still a folk-oriented singer/songwriter, and she is still an impressive storyteller whose influences range from Christine McVie and Grace Slick to Joni Mitchell and Suzanne Vega. But this time, Rossoni’s songs (which combine folk, rock, and pop) tend to have more bite and more of an edge. Under producers Tim Rochon and Joe Sanders, Rossoni often goes for a somewhat tougher, grittier approach. While producer John Paul Gauthier went for a subtle, acoustic-oriented ambiance on Half Slips & Garters, Rochon and Sanders make Downcity more amplified. “Drama Queen” and “Conversations,” in fact, are especially rockin’ and have a lot of Americana appeal. But those who valued the sensitivity of Half Slips & Garters need not worry about Rossoni turning into a hard rock vixen; when Rossoni rocks, she is closer to Melissa Etheridge or Joan Osborne than Lita Ford, Courtney Love or Joan Jett. Rossoni would still fit right in on a Lillith Fair stage, and she brings plenty of sensitivity to reflective originals like “Rain Fall,” “Dead Limb,” and “Mother of the Heart.” For Rossoni, being more amplified doesn’t mean sacrificing sensitivity or nuance. Downcity is a fine sophomore effort, and it is every bit as appealing as Half Slips & Garters in its own way.
A key part of being an effective folk or folk-pop singer is being an effective storyteller, and Mary Ann Rossoni demonstrated that her storytelling skills were excellent with her first solo album, Half Slips & Garters. The Rhode Island native is far from an aggressive singer; subtlety is the rule for Rossoni, whose phrasing could be described as an appealing combination of Christine McVie, Grace Slick, and Joni Mitchell. At times, there are traces of Suzanne Vega in Rossoni‘s vocals, though she lacks Vega‘s waifishness. But for all her softness, Rossoni has no problems getting her points across. Just how impressive a storyteller she can be is evident on originals ranging from “One in the Jury,” sung from the perspective of a juror who has helped send a man to prison for the rest of his life, to “Run of the Mill,” which describes a factory worker’s family. But the most memorable offering of all is “In America,” a haunting gem reflecting on the adjustments immigrants have made after coming to the U.S. This fine CD indicated that Rossoni deserved to be much better known nationally.
by Alex Henderson