The Sweet Maries are Amy Shoemaker and Susie Lofton, with their amazing vocal blend and soaring harmonies performing originals and some of the best-loved songs of the ’60s.
Very acoustic, very much listening music, very heavenly altogether.
“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, host of “Folk Festival” on 90.9fm WDCB Public Radio
Amy ‘Marie’ Shoemaker is an artist by every definition: painting beautiful songs with her colorful lyrics, she blends muscial genres together as a singer-songwriter, poet, producer, and musician. With a background in theatre including MFAs in Acting and Directing, it’s no wonder that she inspires others with her classic songs and music, bringing that familiar sense of playfulness and stage presence to the concert hall; performing with her husband John Williams across the US, Ireland, and Canada; and with bands: The Rolling Mothers, Ladie’s View, Fizgig, Earl Fly, The Shoemakers, and Amy and the Rhinos.
Amy grew up in Florida, but prefers Illinios for its weather, history, and rich characters: inspirations from which she conjours her songs. She is self taught on the guitar and also plays piano and bazouki. Major influences inlcude some of the usual suspects: Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams, Laura Nyro, and a big Chicago shout out to Robbie Fulks!
She has played at many of Chicago’s finest establishments including a residency at SPACE in Evanston with Amy and the Rhinos, and at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall to name a few, and her musical compositions have been performed at Chicago’s Symphony Center.
Susie ‘Marie’ Lofton is a vocalist trained within various choral ensembles including renowned Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus. This foundation gave her a love for classical writers and composers, ensemble singing and harmonic structure. Her background in musical theater helped to hone her craft as a performance artist. Susie also plays guitar, drums and a variety of percussion instruments, most notably the Cabasa. She is inspired by singer-songwriter, inspirational, R&B, gospel, jazz, world beat and prog-rock genres. The result allows a blending of her poetry and short stories set to harmony and rhythm.
Susie's powerfully sweet and soulful voice is noted to possess the whisky timbre of the classic rock “diva”, while soaring into her higher registers to reach harmonious angelic realms. Front woman for bands in the Wicker Park Chicago area, Susie has enjoyed playing in notable rock venues including The Double Door, Chicago, House of Blues and 12 Bar Club in London.
Susie has been fortunate to work with some fantastic folks in the studio world including Grammy nominated producer Jeffrey Wood at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley CA., producer and engineer Doug McBride and Gravity Studios for “Tomorrow Comes”; Erick Butkus and BLAM Studios, Jim Tullio for Amy and the Rhinos on "Rise Up”.
Steve Martin began playing with The Sweet Maries in 2014, joining Amy and Susie with his backing multi-instrumental prowess and his crowd-pleasing banjo picking. He obtained a Master’s degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music, after completing a double major of BA degrees in classical guitar and physical education at Southern Adventist University. He currently holds a role as the band director, physical education teacher, and vice-principal at North Shore Adventist Academy in Chicago, where Steve received the Zapara Excellence In Teaching Award in 1992, and was listed among the ‘Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers’.
Steve’s instrumental music began on the banjo when he was 10 years old. With that spark, he has had a passion to learn more instruments and still continues, adding the concertina in October 2014 to expand his collection of 20+ brass, woodwinds, strings, and other various folk instruments. He is also a composer, performing musician, and recording artist who has recorded six CD’s. Steve’s musical efforts have taken him into a number of styles, such as concert band, stage/jazz band, string orchestra, brass ensemble, Dixieland, Celtic, and bluegrass.
Drummer and percussionist Meg Thomas has performed in musical realms that range from rock to calypso, avant-garde to spoken word, Latin-jazz to punk, and dance ensembles to percussion ensembles. Her drum and percussion set-ups range from the traditional ideas to unique set-ups that incorporate a vast range of percussion instruments. She received her degree in Music from Millikin University, founded and runs the Chicago Women’s Drumming Group, and writes a Drum and Percussion Tips column for the Chicago Music Guide. Meg is a Vic Firth Private Drum and Percussion Teacher and teaches lessons out of her studio in Chicago. She plays recording sessions and performs with an array of bands and ensembles. Meg won a Drummie in Drum!
Magazine’s 2010 Drummie Awards as runner-up “Rising Star Percussionist,” was named “Musician of the Month” for January 2013 by the Chicago Music Guide, and is endorsed by Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Evans Drumheads, LP Percussion, and PureSound Percussion.
Photo credit: Michelle Heyden