Sunday, 26 August 2012

Bex Marshall: The House of Mercy

The House of Mercy
Bex Marshall
Bex Marshall was new to me when this CD arrived at Marsh Towers. By the time I'd heard the 11 tracks a couple of times, I was pleased to make her acquaintance.

Strong vocals and seriously good musicianship inhabit The House of Mercy from the first track to the last. It's a combination of up-tempo blues and Americana, with a toe or two dipped into the world of gospel.

Two things immediately struck me as I studied the liner notes. Firstly, all of the songs were written and produced by Bex herself; quite an achievement. Secondly, the amount of instruments used throughout the CD is very impressive indeed. On the title track alone there are three guitars, Dobro, violin, banjo, harmonica, keyboards, stand up bass, drums and percussion. Not to mention some gospel backing vocals.

It is well known that too many cooks can often spoil the broth, but there's been some very delicate blending of ingredients here; House of Mercy is definitely one of the strongest tracks. I like the unexpected twists of the violin and harmonica, appearing at just the right moments to elevate the song to new levels. Indeed, I'd have welcomed more of the violin on other tracks.

Not every song is dealt mob-handed; Bite Me, for example, features a personnel of two - namely Steve Lockwood on harmonica and Bex on mandolin, percussion, resonator guitar plus both lead and backing vocals. Barrys Song (don't blame me for the missing apostrophe) is stripped down even further, with Steve's harmonica and just Bex's vocals and acoustic guitar.

Bex seems to be a remarkably versatile musician, with three guitars - lead, resonator and slide - credited in Gone Fishin, with the slide being particularly impressive.

There are some slower songs to offer a change of pace (Barrys Song, in particular) and one instrumental (the banjo-driven Big Man).

Track List

House of Mercy
Bite Me
Gone Fishin
Rent My Room
Tough Times
Big Man
Bourbon Street
Barrys Song

The House of Mercy is set to be launched at Ronnie Scott's famous jazz club on 12 September. Anyone within striking distance of London should take the opportunity to attend; I suspect Bex is terrific live.

CD Launch at Ronnie Scott's!

Further details are available over at the official Bex Marshall website.

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