The future of banjo is here, and her name is Mary James, also known as Mean Mary. Hailing from Nashville, James brings with her the folk-rock, bluegrass and blues genres. James performs the banjo with a sort of virtuosity that, had she been in a different time people would wonder if she had sold her soul to the devil. Just check out “Blazing.” Stripped down to just a bass drum, acoustic guitar and banjo, James balances melodic banjo phrases with straight-up shredding in the song. When James steps up to the mic, she has a vocal range that ranges from a deep, smooth voice that can evoke haunting images to trilling high notes that bleed Americana. Mean Mary’s newest album, Cold, releases Oct. 4, and, according to the album’s notes, takes listeners through colder seasons of the year and of the heart.
Mean Mary performs 7:30 pm Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Tsunami Books, located at 2585 Willamette Street. Tickets are $14.50, available at the bookstore or via phone at 541-345-8986.