The Sweet Maries
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The Sweet Maries

Evanston, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Evanston, Illinois, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Americana Acoustic




"Chicago band The Sweet Maries expands musical horizons on latest album"

January 16, 2017 / Sweet Maries

On its latest release, "Tall Trees & Riverbeds," Chicago area duo The Sweet Maries builds on the harmonious relationship between musical soulmates Amy Shoemaker and Susie Lofton.

The band will perform material from the new album during a CD release party from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at The Rock House, 1742 Glenview Road, Glenview.

I had the chance to talk to the band about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, you released "Tall Trees & Riverbeds" last year. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

The Sweet Maries - Our goals were to broaden the sound a bit by adding drums, and create a more indigenous inspired and rootsy feel. We believe we did. We also hired producer Jeffrey Wood to bring his expertise and vast experience into the studio, to help shape and mold our vision…and it worked well.

Q - You have been working together since 2011. How did you come to work together?

The Sweet Maries - We met thru a colorful and quirky mutual acquaintance who thought we might connect musically. We did.

Q - How would you describe your collaboration? Do you both contribute equally to the writing process?

Susie Lofton - This album has the first co-write for us, "Box Canyon Blues," however most of the previous album’s material is Amy’s writing and my contribution has been the harmony voicing and percussive accompaniment. Since then, however we’ve added a song or two to our repertoire that I'd written. We spend a lot of time together and are always discovering new sound colors in the writing process.

Amy Shoemaker - We were both hungry to find a partner who would listen, and focus and be supportive of one another AND a good communicator.
We found each other and it just clicked!

Q - How would you say your voices blend together?

The Sweet Maries - We think we have a unique harmony to our voices. All together heavenly.

Q - Susie, I know you have worked in other genres of music. What drew you to the folk/Americana genre?

Susie Lofton - It's true, I have eclectic tastes in music ... largely attributed to the many voices I hear. This genre I find myself in now is a return to my time at Old Town School of Folk Music.
I was so touched by the singer songwriter style. The art of the story. The beauty of the voice and harmony. I love the intimate space it allows for.

Q - It seems like there has been a growing interest in the folk/Americana genre in the past few years. Why do you think there is a renewed interest in the folk/Americana genre?

The Sweet Maries - It's all about the singer. Truthful colorful storytelling about real life.
Real feelings. Real people. There always has been and always will be singer/songwriters. Music trends ebb and flow, but singer /songwriters are a constant in American music. Whether it's folk, gospel, blues or rock, it’s the story of America.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see yourselves fitting into it?

The Sweet Maries - Chicago has a rich history of holding its own in the singer /songwriter genre. We like to think we’re part of that tradition.

We’re grateful for the family of singer / songwriters that we’ve found here in Chicago, and we’re gonna keep it going. - THE TOTAL SCENE

"Chicago's THE SWEET MARIES brandish strong storytelling on new release  "

Like any powerful musical duo, Amy Shoemaker and Susie Lofton -- who make up Chicago acoustic indiefolk/Americana group The Sweet Maries -- seem joined at the hip. Their musical and vocal talents compliment each other while both reaching the same goal with ease. And no more is that made clear than on "Dirt Road," the life-affirming opening track of their newest release Tall Trees & Riverbeds.     Though certainly not as topsy-turvy as the plot of Thelma & Louise, "Dirt Road" sports a vibe of two women united, ready to take on whichever path is laid out, even if one of the opening lyrics proclaims there's "No one beside me / No one to help guide me." It's set to a breezy melody that coasts like the wind on a long, open drive.     Traveling together since 2011 -- with two previous albums under their belts -- Shoemaker and Lofton play things comically close to the vest on how they were introduced ("We met through a crazy carpet cleaner. Enough said," goes the story when it comes up), but it's clear that their respective talents make this pairing seem like a life-long friendship through song. Per Shoemaker, "Collaboration is key for our music. Susie and I
have been in many bands over the years, but I think we both were thirsty for bandmates who had the desire to work closely and frequently together to shape the sound and contours of our music."     Those contours are present on the Western-styled "Box Canyon Blues," where percussion, throaty yells and closely recorded exhales make for a mysterious, enchanting tune. The song "started out as a guitar line I had written and Susie and I were having fun with it at rehearsal, putting some vocal background parts on it in harmony. She had a thought about lyrics and came up with some great ones that fit perfectly with the music and took it to a mystical place. And she sings the daylights out of it."     Lofton adds "Spending as much time together as possible has been key for us. Amy and I try to allow the process to be very organic. Writing is a place where we are very vulnerable. We developed a strong trust in our relationship, so it's a safe place to play. It's very kinetic."     Elsewhere, the luster and relatable nature of "Brighter Day" shines with optimism and a timeless "sha-la-la" refrain, while "Sweet William" goes the opposite route, showcasing a bit of worry and darkness as the duo wonders of the song's subjects will "make it home by the morning." Closing number "Oh Mary" thrives on handclaps and incredible vocal runs, showcasing all the best parts of The Sweet Maries: captivating voices, engrossing storytelling and masterful musicianship.     "Music, collaboration, stories, glory, pain, love, desire, humor, beauty and struggle are all things that we celebrate and that motivates us consciously and unconsciously," explains Shoemaker when asked about overall themes in The Sweet Maries' catalog. "Music is a sacred place and we love to be in and around it." Lofton adds that "the aspect of human connectivity and the many stories our lives tell" are also key. "The concept that deep down we all want something sacred, transcendent and beautiful. We want love. Music can inspire us and can also confront us."     - Jim Henke Forest Bride PR

"The Modern Folk Music of America - The Sweet Maries"

Chicago's The Sweet Maries are an accomplished folk band that keep the beguiling harmonies of singers Amy Shoemaker and Susie Lofton up in the front, backed string-band production that features some acrobatic mandolin playing. There is a mix of pop drama and polish and old time folk vibes. Their self titled album includes an interesting take on the traditional tune 'Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair' - The Modern Folk

"The Sweet Maries Get Nod From Beach Boys producer"

"I so enjoyed your tasty album. What a joy to hear your work. What a unified field. I must note that Don Stiernberg is an ace producer (as well as an amazing mandolinist) for the way he’s maximized everyone’s ability with such clarity and parity. The Sweet Maries is a great album, and a group that I hope one day to catch in performance. Hat’s off!” - -Van Dyke Parks, American composer/arranger/producer/musician

"Lilli Kuzma's raving review"

“The Sweet Maries sizzles with its eclectic mix of songs and styles–everything from folk, blues and jazz to gospel and traditional, including outstanding originals. Performing with a flair that gathers in the audience like bees to honey, The Sweet Maries delivers a fun and very sweet musical experience. Amy Shoemaker, Susie Lofton, Don Stiernberg, and Jim Cox are a superb group infused with chemistry, chops, and charisma. The debut album is very highly recommended, and a live show is not to be missed!”
— - Lilli Kuzma, “Folk Festival” on 90.9fm WDCB Public Radio


The Sweet Maries - Self Titled (Jan 2014)

Tall Trees & Riverbeds (Jan 2017)

Hark (Nov 2017)

Love Hurts (Jan 2022)



The Sweet Maries, lead by Amy Shoemaker and Susie Lofton, thrill audiences with their amazing vocal blend, soaring harmonies and honest heart felt tales. 

2013 marked the release of their much anticipated self titled debut album from Wild Fuchsia Music, featuring the single “Fat Man’s Holler” with an accompanying music film directed by Jay Eckensberger of Wayside Films.  The Sweet Maries were honored to be  nominated for their video selection and performed live at CIMMFest, Chicago, IL.  

2016 marked the release of their anxiously awaited sophomore EP "Tall Trees & Riverbeds", recorded and engineered by Chris Harden at IV Labs in Chicago and produced by Grammy nominated producer Jeffrey Wood of world renown Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA.

2017 brought the release of their Christmas EP "Hark", a compact collection of original compositions, including an instrumental piano suite written and performed by Amy Shoemaker.

January of 2022 gives birth to the long-awaited EP entitled "Love Hurts" produced by Amy Shoemaker, and executive produced by Jeffrey Wood of Studio AHA, in Berkeley CA.  

Band Members