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Mary Karlzen

A folk-pop singer/songwriter with a bit of earthy Americana flair, Mary Karlzen rose out of Florida in the front half of the 1990s, notching a handful of hits as an independent artist before Atlantic signed her in 1995. Yelling at Mary, her major-label debut, was well received by critics and featured notable collaborators like Jackson Browne and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo. Over the ensuing years, she migrated back into the indie world, touring and releasing additional albums, including 2006's punchy, introspective The Wanderlust Diaries. Pausing her career to raise a family, Karlzen released a couple of children's albums as part of the Chickadees before returning in 2021 with her fifth solo album, Shine. Born and raised in Chicago, Karlzen taught herself to play guitar in her early teens, taking inspiration from rock troubadours like Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello as well as country icons like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash. By the time she headed to Florida to attend college, she'd developed her own style that landed somewhere between early-'90s acoustic alt-pop and a rock with a dose of rootsy twang. She also took an autobiographical approach to songwriting in the vein of Joni Mitchell, another early influence. After working in a record store for a few years, Karlzen's early demos caught the attention of Miami label Y&T, which released her eponymous debut album in 1992. She gained some regional notice, but it was her 1993 EP Hide that helped her break into the mainstream with a pair of songs that fell into heavy rotation on VH1. The majors soon came calling, and Atlantic signed Karlzen, putting her in the studio with heavy-hitters like Benmont Tench, David Hidalgo, and Jackson Browne. 1995's Yelling at Mary had an appealing folk-rock flavor with plenty of pop punch. It was well reviewed, and she supported the album with tours opening for icons like Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, and Lucinda Williams, but it didn't sell quite enough for Atlantic to keep her on the label's roster. Back with Y&T, Karlzen released the harder-edged Dim the Watershed in 1999, then relocated to Milwaukee and laid relatively low until 2006's The Wanderlust Diaries, which came out on the Dualtone label. While she continued to write songs, Karlzen devoted much of the following decade to raising her young children and formed a family-friendly group called the Chickadees. The trio's nature-based children's songs found an eager audience, and over two albums, they won a pair of Parents' Choice Awards. Following a 15-year gap between solo albums, Karlzen resumed her career in 2021 with Shine. Released by Y&T and produced by Jansen Press, the collection reaffirmed her thoughtful mix of folk, pop, country, and driving rock.
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
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