Bex Marshall – The House of Mercy

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Review by Will Harris



It’s rare nowadays that many relatively new acts on the blues scene can garner any sort of acclaim without being compared to some other great that came before them. When London-based singer and guitarist Bex Marshall released her first album, Kitchen Table, in 2008, it was the light rasp of her impressive voice that saw her hailed as the next Bonnie Raitt, but as is often with these kinds of comparisons they never say enough about the artist in question, and rarely do them justice. Such is the case with Marshall’s latest release, where she really shows that she’s well and truly dedicated to making a mark of her own.

The House of Mercy, from its eponymous opening track, sees Marshall leave behind the mostly acoustic material of her previous record with a full 11-strong band, and from the opening line of ‘Let the service begin with wine drinkin’,’ it’s apparent that it’s going to be a lot of fun. In the first two tracks alone we’re also treated to a range of genres: ‘House of Mercy’ descends into a frantic bluegrass violin solo, while ‘Love’ drives along to the sound of Marshall’s deep southern slide playing. She goes on to cover nearly all the bases: ‘Gone Fishin’’ leads with a good toe-tapping, head-nodding rhythm, the banjo-twiddling ‘Tough Time’ stomps a country beat, and ‘Barry’s Song’ is the archetypal acoustic Americana ballad. There’s also a bit more, as ‘Rent My Room’, with its prominent piano and talk-singing verses, is like Beggar’s Banquet-era Stones done to Marshall’s own recipe.

The majority of this solid songwriting is carried by Marshall’s great vocal and guitar performances which, though they rarely dazzle, would be find you hard-pressed to replace without compromising the songs themselves, so much are they a part of her sound. The lyrics, mostly dedicated to light-hearted storytelling, dangerous love and ‘chin-up’ reflections on life, aren’t going to blow any minds, but it’s clear from the outset that this album’s not here to unleash revelations, it’s about having fun.

And herein lies the charm of The House of Mercy; most of the real enjoyment comes when the whole band’s going at once, because they simply sound like they’re having a good time, and the result is a lively and entertaining album. The House, it seems, is open to all who are willing to enter, and this latest release might just see Bex Marshall add plenty of new fans to her congregation.

 

7 out of 10

Track listing:Bex Marshall - The House of Mercy

    1. House of Mercy
    2. Love
    3. Bite Me
    4. Gone Fishin’
    5. Rent My Room
    6. Rattlesnake
    7. Tough Times
    8. Big Man
    9. Bourbon Street
    10. Barry’s Song
    11. Guilty