Devilish Mary and the Holy Rollers are a three-piece swing doo-wop group from Christchurch.
Their self-titled album is subtle and melodic and relaxing in a way that is never dull. Their sound relies on vocal harmonies and thick warm instrumentation, and fans of Django Reinhardt might hear something familiar in the guitar here and there.
Anita Clark provides vocals and violin, Ben Woolley vocals and double bass and Simon Gregory guitar, but the album features a whole host of guests who contribute percussion, brass, vocals and strings, adding to the lush period sound the Holy Rollers have. The album was recorded and mixed by Ben Edwards at the Sitting Room Studios in Lyttelton, with production by Edwards and the band, and mastering by Ben Delaney.
The production is polished, but not so slick that it eliminates the character or the warmth – the result has a handmade, analogue feel that harks back to balladeers and crooners. That old-fashioned style is reinforced by decisions like covering the song Istanbul (Not Constantinople), originally recorded by The Four Lads in 1953. This is a good indicator of the styles and genres that Mary and her Rollers are mining.
The album feels old, but that’s not a criticism. In the same way that villas are nicer than modern apartments, there’s a sense of class and substance to the music, and a lasting appeal. You could dance to these songs today, or 50 years ago, or tomorrow, and they’ll be just as enjoyable and heart-warming.