Mary Johnson Rockers and the Spark
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Mary Johnson Rockers and the Spark

Durham, North Carolina, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | SELF

Durham, North Carolina, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Rock Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Reviews: Chris Altmann, Mary Johnson Rockers, Jill Jack"

Over four days at the Americana Music Festival, review copies of albums can be as ubiquitous as business cards. A sampling of some of the most intriguing artists we came across:
Australian artists were well-represented at the Americana Music Festival. Chris Pickering’s “Work of Fiction,” produced by Don Nix, was a dazzling collection of jangly pop and his fellow countryman Chris Altmann mines similar, if even more derivative territory, on “Que Paso.” You can play “spot the influence” all over this album. The first five seconds of “Other Side of the Mountain” brings to mind both “Dear Prudence” and “The Weight.” “Mucho Grande” recalls the best of Doug Sahm; “Love Like This” channels the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers and “Zig Zag Rag” smacks of Bob Seger. “Hard Tac” and “Bad News” rock with abandon and a bit of Elton John. Yes, it all sounds familiar, but it’s also a lot of fun. Altmann is inspired by the best and does his heroes justice on this energetic and entertaining album.
From North Carolina, Mary Johnson Rockers and the Spark have teamed up for “Hummingbird Heart,” an impressive eight-song collection that moves from lost sailor saga “Lucio” to the bluesy “Eyes on the Road” to the sweet and goofy love song “Ten Things.” But the title track eclipses all. It’s a stunning song about the premature birth of Rockers’ son Ty, and the challenges he faced. “Life is hard from the start with a hummingbird heart,” Rockers sings. Very touching.
Jill Jack’s “Songwriter Sessions” is an ambitious CD/DVD project, a live recording of all new material with a fine band and appreciative audience. The soaring love song “It’s You” is a highlight, as is the unlikely cover of “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.” The project – and notably the bonus track “Northern Michigan” – remind us that there are vibrant music communities all over America, with talent to match.
Her new “Sunflower Girl” album is due in February. - Sun 209: The Americana Music Journal

"Mary Johnson Rockers' Hummingbird Heart"

While the third release by Mary Johnson Rockers is predicated on resilience, it doesn't take much effort to get through the eight-track mini-album. The songs are so catchy, well-written and eclectic that, at just over 30 minutes, it feels as though it's over before it's begun. Though previous releases hewed close to country-folk, Rockers takes her alto croon further afield on the latest, particularly with the sultry late-night strut "Eyes on the Road." Like most of the album, it resonates with strong perspective. Citing those individuals who "Talk about anybody but themselves/ They are the messengers of bad news riding on my tail," Rockers (yes, that's her last name, not her band name) winds through her extended metaphor with titular tunnel vision.

The most arresting tune, though, is the one immediately preceding it, "Ten Things," a bustling country number reminiscent of John Prine's "In Spite of Ourselves." Matching the classic Prine tune in tone and wit, its heartfelt sentiment ("You tire me out and make me so mad/ but I can't live without you because for everything I don't like, there's ten things I love") and sticky melody make it nearly irresistible.

Were "Ten Things" and "Eyes on the Road" the only winners, this would still be a triumph, but several other songs distinguish themselves as well. Driven by wonderful flamenco-tinged guitar and a great martial rhythm, "Lucio" tells a lost-at-sea story; "Never Break Me" is a biting country rocker that recalls Kelly Willis. The title track is another showcase of Rockers' versatility. The pretty, fingerpicked folk tune sketches a portrait of a child with a fluttering heart. It taps into the album's theme of endurance—"Turn your will into wings/ show the world you will sing one day"—and offers further evidence for Rockers' evocative lyrical gifts. - Independent Weekly


Hummingbird Heart (2011)
No Place for Birds to Rest (2008)



is her name, not a band. But with the Spark behind her, she delivers great, roving Americana with pipes to spare, (The Pinhook, Durham, NC). Ranging from soft twang with impeccable harmonies to driving rock rhythms full of late-night swagger, Marys music draws in fans of indie, folk and country alike. This past year has taken Mary Johnson Rockers and the Spark to new heights-- thanks to their 2011 release Hummingbird Heart, dubbed a triumph, full of catchy, well-written and eclectic songs (Chris Parker, Independent Weekly), a repeat spot on NPRs The State of Things, and a score of solid performances throughout their local NC Piedmont. Mary is joined by longtime friend and vocalist Miriam Chicurel-Bayard, contributing songwriter Jim Kremidas on vocals, guitar, pedal steel, and dobro, and most recently, bassist FJ Ventre (Jon Shain, The Stars Explode, Tom Maxwell) and percussionist Robert Cantrell (Hobex, Tim Smith Band, Samba Jovem).

The energy sparking now didnt happen overnight. In a review of Mary's 2008 release No Place for Birds to Rest that features notables Greg Readling (Chatham County Line) and Mark Holland, she was noted for a voice built for singing of lingering touches and songwriting skills built for the subtle but lasting detail (Rick Cornell, Country Standard Time). Shes earned a seat twice on the famed Blue Plate Special at WDVX (Knoxville), joined North Carolinas Stars in the Round circle at Shakori Hills, and with surefooted versatility has performed both as a solo artist and with collaborators for over a decade, including former Chapel Hill band Pawnshop Ruby. With the chemistry of the current ensemble, new songs are in the works, and Mary Johnson Rockers and the Spark shines brighter than ever.friend and skillfull harmonist Miriam Chicurel-Bayard and with her former band Pawnshop Ruby, Mary quickly became a favorite on the local music scene. The current ensemble that is "The Spark" includes Kenneth Peterson (bass), Jim Kremidas (songwriting, guitar, pedal steel), Matt Jenkins (drums) and Miriam Chicurel-Bayard (vocals, bass) started coming together in 2009 and continues to take Mary's songwriting into higher gears.

Their collaborative 2011 LP, Hummingbird Heart, was dubbed "a triumph" by Chris Parker in the Independent Weekly, who goes on to say, "The songs are so catchy, well-written and eclectic that, at just over 30 minutes, it feels as though it's over before it's begun."

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