- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 7, 2002

It's a rare treat to meet a rock legend. Local songstress Mary Prankster did that and went one step further. She got one of her idols to produce her next record.
Mitch Easter, best known for his work on early R.E.M. albums and for his band Let's Active, is the man behind the curtain on "Tell Your Friends," the third album from Baltimore rock trio Mary Prankster, Miss Prankster's eponymously named group.
It premieres at a record release party tonight at the 9:30 Club, with Mr. Easter and the Crackpots opening for the band.
It's a big step for a woman who was once banned from most of the clubs in Annapolis for off-color lyrics. On "Tell Your Friends," Miss Prankster has swapped dirty words for hook-laden tales of heartbreak and love gone wrong that are more lyrically complex than her earlier efforts.
It will be a bittersweet celebration. This will be the final Mary Prankster album featuring Jon E. Cakes on bass and Phil Tang on drums. The two have been with the group for the past four years and decided recently to make this their last tour.
The current trio's final show will be Nov. 29 at Fletcher's in Baltimore.
Miss Prankster first gained attention as a songwriter by debuting in 1998 with "Blue Skies Over Dundalk." Its 1999 follow-up, "Roulette Girl," was the first to feature Mr. Tang and Mr. Cakes. The trio formed Palace Coup Records in 2000 to distribute albums, as its heavy tour schedule gained the band a fan base around the country, most notably on the East Coast.
Creative differences among the members led to the split, which has been amicable, Miss Prankster says. She says she plans to continue playing and recording but has no definite plans yet.
She hopes the decision to end the current lineup will not take away from the group's pride over "Tell Your Friends."
"It's the strongest material that I've ever written," Miss Prankster says via cell phone from her home in Baltimore. "All of my strength, all of my emotion, everything that could possibly go into this album has gone into it."
The 10 songs expand on the group's energetic power rock formula, including a piano ballad ("Arm's Length") and a countryish weeper ("Darlin'"). It also features the two-part song "Tell Your Friends" that gives the album its name, with part two written before there was a part one.
Most of the songs that appear on the album are at least two years old and road-tested, with "Arm's Length" predating Miss Prankster's first two albums.
"It's about general defiance and standing your ground," Miss Prankster says of the album. "There are a lot of songs about separation and the need for separation because of that defiance."
Miss Prankster became involved with Mr. Easter after sending him an e-mail several years ago expressing her admiration. The band met him while on one of their Southern tours and later recorded in his North Carolina studio during a break from the road.
His advice "Treat every song as its own individual universe" helped influence her on "Roulette Girl," and the band admired Mr. Easter's laid-back, yet knowledgeable presence in the studio. Noted veteran Shelly Yakus (who's worked with U2, Tom Petty and the Ramones) did the final mixing.
"This one was special," Miss Prankster says. "The songs are really special, and I wanted to make sure they had the best setting they possibly could."
Whatever happens with the band, she says that the final shows will be energetic and that the album is a high point in her career.
"I love it, and that's the most important thing," she says.


WHAT: Mary Prankster, with opener the Crackpots
WHERE: 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW
WHEN: 9 p.m. tonight
TICKETS: $10
PHONE: 202/393-0930

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