Mary Johnson Rockers' Hummingbird Heart | Record Review | Indy Week

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Mary Johnson Rockers' Hummingbird Heart

(self-released)

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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.

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