Maria in the Shower are vastly different from Titus Andronicus is many, very important ways. In fact, perhaps the only thing both bands share is the top spot on my list of favourite live bands. Both bands can electrify a stage and captivate an audience, albeit often for completely different reasons. Maria in the Shower have a theatrical stage presence that doesn’t shy away from props, costumes, over-arching narratives or contrabass acrobatics. That said, Maria in the Shower is not a band that needs to, nor does, rely on gimmickery. Attending a Maria in the Shower live show is to be taken on a wildfire tour through the American Folk songbook, beginning with jazz, browsing through folk and bluegrass, and winding up sweating through some pounding blues-rock numbers.
Maria create an excellent facsimile of all these styles, particularly pre-war jazz. For my money, however, Maria is best at crafting driving Americana epics. Maria in the Shower produce the type of music that the Decemberists would if their recent stylistic shift had settled south of the Mason-Dixon Line. That said, Maria in the Shower know a good New England sea-shanty when they get their hands on it! Nonetheless, my two favourite Maria in the Shower songs are the two that best fit the description of “driving Americana epic”: “Train of the Pounding Hours” and “Old Joseph Brady.”
“Train of the Pounding Hours” begins with the clank and clatter percussion of a hammer and chains and is best played loud. The sounds in question are reproduced faithfully at their live shows in a marathon performance by drummer Todd Biffard, by alternately striking a actual section of railroad track with a hammer and crashing a fistful of chains against the dancefloor. The simple cello riff that begins the track leads the rest of the group through a building drone as the music swaggers and sways with the chaingang percussion. The simple, repeated gospel chorus really seals the deal. When performed live, Martin Reisle, who sings lead on this track, breaks down into a shouting Evangelical rhapsody as the instruments drop out leaving the band and audience moaning in unison: “We’re bleeding, Lord. Bleeding, Lord.” It’s a very powerful thing to experience.
Maria in the Shower, “Train of the Pounding Hours” (from Come Never, 2009)
Though perhaps more subtle, Maria’s other epic is no less resonant. The song begins with a single guitar chord and Reisle’s wavering voice, before Reisle and other vocalist Jack Garton begin to trade verses, building the tension in the narrative. The band slowly joins in as the track builds to a beautiful, shuddering climax before a harmonizing, a capella dénouement.
Maria in the Shower, “Old Joseph Brady” (Live, 2010)
Their albums are available to stream or purchase, here.