|Mary Jo Curry, a powerhouse vocalist from Illinois, started her musical career as a classically trained singer, pianist, and actor. Nine years ago, she was struck by the blues. While out with a friend for the evening, Curry heard music coming from a little club down the street and was “pulled” in. This is where she met guitarist, now husband Michael Rapier, and her relationship with the blues began. Five years after they started performing together, they enlisted Chris Rogers on bass and Rick Snow on drums giving them the solid foundation needed to propel the band’s sound. The four core members have grown beyond being a tight live band, into a quality recording and song writing unit. Rapier, Snow, and Rogers also produced all the tracks on the album. In addition to the four core members, The Mary Jo Curry Band is joined by Brett Donovan or Ezra Casey on keyboard, and Brian Moore on saxophone, rounding out the touring band. Their latest release has a strong “live” feel to it, capturing the excitement the band generates on stage. So exciting in fact, it seems limiting to use the term “listening” regarding their music. You feel it. You sense it. It’s an experience.
“Front Porch,” the new album from Mary Jo (the first release from this band line-up), is made up of ten original songs and one cover. Nine of the originals were penned by the members of the band, and the tenth original was specifically written for Mary Jo by legendary Chicago drummer and composer, Andrew Blaze Thomas, that showcases the talents of a woman born to sing the blues.
After self-titled album (produced by James Armstrong) was completed and finding its way onto the charts, blues great Albert Castiglia, a friend of Mary Jo’s, teasingly asked her why she didn’t include him on the first album. Later good friend, and Chicago great Tom Holland, and then Andrew Duncanson from Kilborn Alley, made similar comments to Mary Jo. With these offers, songs were written, tailored with these great artists in mind. The three guest stars delivered stellar performances on the tunes. Castiglia and Holland enjoyed the songs so much they added their fire on two additional songs.
Curry’s opener, ‘Nothing Is Easy,’ is a high intensity, guitar driven track that tells of difficult times, so troubled that even seeking a deal in the delta isn’t so easy. She then leads the band into full-on party mode with the drivin’ boogie ‘Turn It Loose.’ Curry delivers a scathing rebuke to her lover in ‘All Your Lies,’ with friend Holland adding ice pick lead guitar to the heavy Chicago shuffle. She sinks her teeth into the struggles of a complex relationship on the slinky R&B track ‘The Man,’ composed by Rogers. Duncanson and Curry join forces over a one chord steamrolling groove, in the supercharged vocal duet ‘Lookin’,’ a track that is sure to garner radio attention.
The 8-bar ballad, ‘House Is Lonely’ is a sentimental dedication to Rapier’s sister and grandson. Curry unleashes all her sound and fury on ‘Explaining the Blues,’ the dramatic showstopper written exclusively for the vocalist’s expansive dynamic and emotional range. ‘Shake & Bake,’ a swinging instrumental, brings a fast-moving change in the action, giving each band member, plus Holland, a moment to stretch out. The fun reading of ‘We All Had A Real Good Time’ stays true to the original 1972 Edgar Winter Group recording with Castiglia stepping into the role of Ronnie Montrose, bringing a snarling guitar solo on the Southern Rock party anthem. The heavy, hard hitting title track ‘Front Porch,’ speaks of a woman’s murderous plan after her lover has proved untrue. The intensity of Castiglia’s guitar and Curry’s vocals come together perfectly on this song.
The album concludes with the New Orleans Funk/Gospel Rave-up ‘Joyful,’ where Mary Jo takes us to church, as only she can, for this glorious celebration of love. Mary Jo Curry’s strong second release, “Front Porch,” reveals what she and the band have been up to for the past four years and shows the direction they are heading. From the time Armstrong told Mary Jo, “We’ve got to get you recorded” through to the completion of “Front Porch,” you hear the evolution of a tight working band and you are able to get a view into the blues heart of The Mary Jo Curry Band.
There’s a sincerity to Mary Jo Curry’s singing. She’s not trying to show off her voice, she’s not trying to sound like someone else, she’s here to make you believe something – to feel something, to know in your soul the truth, the joy, and the pain she’s singing about. This is music that is able “to find that line between old school blues and modern songwriting,” where tradition brushes up against R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and funk. It’s blues that move you, songs that take you for a ride.
Mary Jo and guitarist, Michael Rapier, started performing together nine years ago. Five years later, they enlisted Chris Rogers on bass and Rick Snow on drums. This powerhouse rhythm section provided that magical component that propelled the band’s sound. The four core members have grown, beyond being a tight live band, into a quality recording and song writing unit. Mary Jo’s first album, simply titled “Mary Jo Curry,” debuted at #1 on the RMR Classic Blues Chart and held the top spot for three weeks, finishing with 23 weeks in the Top Ten and Number Five for the year 2016! The album had three #1 hits on the RMR Classic Blues Charts; ‘When a Woman’s Had Enough,’ ‘Steppin’,’ and ‘Husband #2’ while ‘Ooooo Weeee’ reached #2 on the RMR Classic Blues Chart and reached Number 21 in the nation for all genres!
Mary Jo’s first big push came from international touring artist, James Armstrong, who told her, “We’ve got to get you recorded.” Armstrong was so confident in Mary Jo’s ability that he volunteered his time and talent to produce her debut album. The album allowed Mary Jo to be introduced to an audience outside of Central Illinois. Great artists like Albert Castiglia, Johnny Rawls, Andrew Duncanson and Tom Holland have sung the praises of the band. Albert Castiglia said it this way: “Mary Jo Curry’s time has come! Her new record will demonstrate that she’s a force to be reckoned with in the blues world. Look out!” Johnny Rawls said “I have sung with Mary Jo many times, and she delivers every time! She has a powerful and soulful voice.”
The Mary Jo Curry Band plays regularly in the Midwest and has developed a strong following in the western states after two tours through Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Northern Idaho. At the close of 2019, Mary Jo Curry was named the Best Female Vocalist of the Year by the Illinois Times, and her band was runner-up as the 2019 Best Original Music Band.