Mary Lee's Corvette came up in conversation this week, and since they're
coming to town next week, the Tribune-Review ran this profile. Is this the
year of acts covering 70s albums in their entirity? I'm skeptical of
Behe's favorable comparison to Dylan's original, but curious to hear the
Rock road ahead looks promising for Mary Lee's Corvette
By Regis Behe
Friday, November 29, 2002
A publicity photo shows Mary Lee Kortes leaning on a vintage '56 Chevy. The
name of her band, however, is Mary Lee's Corvette.
"I still can't quite afford one," she says bashfully, when asked why she's
posing in front of another car.
That might change soon. Kortes' new album, a cover-to-cover version of Bob
Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks," is one of the more pleasant musical
surprises of the year. Recorded at Arlene Grocery in New York City, it's an
opportunity to hear a classic album like it's rarely heard: live, in its
entirety and, well, clearly.
Mary Lee's Corvette plays Thursday at Club Cafe in the South Side.
Nothing against the genius of Bob Dylan, but it's wondrous to hear "Blood
on the Tracks" with Kortes' letter-perfect enunciation. It's equally
amazing how the project came about.
Arlene Grocery, a club in Manhattan's Lower East Side, hosts evenings when
performers revisit classic rock albums in their entirety. At the last
moment, Kortes decided to tape her scheduled performance of "Blood on the
Tracks." Having only a cassette to make a board tape, the first side came
out OK, but the second side was problematic.
Then she found someone had recorded the entire performance on a mini-disc.
After passing copies along to Billboard magazine and
www.dylancoveralbums.com, Kortes thought that would be the end of the story.
Then e-mails started flooding her Web site, requesting copies of the live
performance. You could say a star was born, save that Kortes has had a
fairly successful career for almost a decade.
"I was about halfway through recording my new album when this started," she
The experience has affected Kortes' career. She's now touring with her
band, singing half of "Blood on the Tracks," then some of her songs, before
finishing Dylan's opus. The effects of the songs linger and revisit her
Dylan's "Idiot Wind" allows her a chance to be "completely, madly angry,
with absolutely good consequences." "Shelter From the Storm" is special
because Kortes' parents died at a relatively young age and she relates to
being "a sort of wandering semi-homeless person looking for shelter. Isn't
that how we all feel underneath?" And "Tangled Up in Blue," with its many
choruses and elaborate wordplay, was special because "I wanted to get it
right. I wanted to sing the lyrics in a way that was true to the song, but
I also did not want to imitate him."
Kortes says she's not worried that she might somehow forever be linked to
"Blood on the Tracks."
"I had two records before this, and this put more emphasis on me as a
singer," she says. "I had been told I was a great songwriter, but my
singing, I was not so sure about that."
Reviews have lauded Kortes for her interpretations of a sacred segment of
Dylan's catalog. But perhaps the greatest accolade accorded to her came at
a Dylan concert in Philadelphia. Kortes wasn't there, but she heard her
album was played before Dylan performed that night. And the album is listed
on Dylan's official Web site, so he must approve.
But what about that band name? Kortes says it came from a Publisher's
Clearinghouse letter that claimed she had won either $75,000 or a new
Corvette. There were images of the car in three colors, and each was
labeled "Mary Lee's Corvette."
Kortes didn't win a car, but at least her career is now in the fast lane.
Mary Lee's Corvette
# 7:30 p.m. Thursday
# Club Cafe, South Side
# (412) 431-4950
Regis Behe can be reached at rbehe@...