Bex Marshall - The House of Mercy (Independent)
You’ll go far to find a more consummate compendium of all things Americana than this impressive second release from Devonshire-born Bex Marshall. Veering towards a countrified blues the album pulls in a vast range of other styles including bluegrass, ragtime, swampy grooves and, courtesy of vocal support from Shola Adegoraye, more than a little gospel.
Marshall herself has a rich soulful voice that competes with her stylish guitar playing for centre stage, the latter showcased to best effect on the gently engaging instrumental ‘Big Man’. The impressive supporting cast of BJ Cole (Dobro), Eileen Healy (fiddle), Steve Lockwood (harmonica) and members of the Reno Brothers and Hayseed Dixie join bassist Barry Payne and percussionist Danny Bryan to add considerable depth to the eleven self-penned originals. Ten of these are of the highest standard, full of gutsy stories and wry humour, and the only quibble comes in the form of ‘Barry’s Song’, a queasy personal homage to her husband – sincerely meant no doubt, and hopefully appreciated by its subject, but its intimate lyrics don’t make comfortable listening for us onlookers.