Best known among longtime indie-rock enthusiasts for fronting the quirky Boston-based rock trio Helium in the late ’90s, sleepy-faced singer/guitarist Mary Timony now stands as a sort of legendary underground figure. Some music writers even refer to her as an “underground guitar goddess” –which ain’t far off the mark. She has the chops and the amp sounds down pat. Between her unusual Fender guitar stylings, whispery-but-powerful singing voice, grandly-arranged song work, and mysterious lyrical themes, however, she’s a character more complex and creative than a simple tag like that.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Timony relocated to Boston in the early ’90s and worked toward a degree in English literature at Boston University. That’s where the Helium story began. She assembled the trio with Brian Dunton on bass and Shawn King Devlin (formerly of Dumptruck) on drums. Her knowledge of classical and post-punk music was apparent in all of the band’s material on the Matador label, including 1995’s The Dirt of Luck and the 1997 masterpiece The Magic City. By the last few releases, Polvo singer/guitarist Ash Bowie had replaced Dunton on bass, adding to the band’s more angular rock style and unique instrumentation. The band enjoyed a few moments of fame on commercial alternative radio, college radio, and on MTV’s 120 Minutes before disbanding in 1998.
Timony went solo in 2000 and formed a new band with drummer Christina Files, cellist Amy Domingues, bassist/horn player Jeff Goddard, and multi-instrumentalist Al Weatherhead in time for 2002’s The Golden Dove (Matador).
Stripping things down to a duo with drummer Devin Ocampo, she released some of her most dynamic rock stuff — driven by big guitar sounds and reverberating electric piano and keys — on the recent studio album, 2005’s Ex Hex (Lookout). This year, she and Ocampo have added bassist Chad Molter to the lineup and assembled a forthcoming album of rock tunes titled The Shapes We Make, due in May on the Kill Rock Stars label.
The Mary Timony Band share the stage with The New Trust, Ambulette, and The Twilight Sad on Tues. March 20 at the Village Tavern (1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., 884-6311). Doors are at 9 p.m. Cover is $10. Check out www.marytimony.com and
www.village-tavern.com for more.