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Bex Marshall - House Of Mercy

House of Mercy Records

Eleven Tracks 43:03

The House of Mercy is actually an internet radio station ( that transmits, to use their text, “the best in Americana, roots, rock, bluegrass, blues, country and singer songwriters.” The station runs live sessions that are transmitted and, oh, yes, they make CDs too. Actually the description above of the station is a pretty good match to the contents of this CD. It is, as they say in those multiple choice tests, All of the above.

There is an under-current of blues, but the presence of Scruggs style banjo picking and some country type and gospel type arrangements (albeit very tight) as well as some seriously rocky pieces, drag it well away from any purists’ ideal of a blues album.

Ms Marshall herself fronts the band(s) with an assortment of guitars, including an 2006 Ozark resonator often with a slide on her little finger and an Electric Lady guitar made by Eddie Cameron and Chris Eccleshall, in a workshop near to where I am writing this. She has a clean fiery style whether playing with her fingers or with a pick. All of the eleven tracks on this CD were written and produced by Bex and the whole comes with an array of British and American instrumentalists all of whom are top notch musicians: Dobro player BJ Cole, Hayseed Dixie alumni Don Wayne Reno (banjo), Dale Reno (mandolin) & Jake Byers (acoustic bass); harp man Steve Lockwood; and Eileen Healy violin ace. Background vocals come from Brigitte De Meyer (Nashville) Shola Adegoraye and Bex herself, and a rhythm section including Toby Baker (keys), Barry Payne (bass), with percussion and drums by Danny Bryan and Crispin Taylor provides a firm underpinning.

Now you might think that such a line-up might swamp a young singer and you’d be right if Ms Marshall did not have such a prodigious vocal talent. With a powerful voice channeling Janice and Bonnie, she moves from Memphis Minnie vocal stylings (Gone Fishin’) through blues shouter epics (Bite Me) to a thoughtful acoustic piece (Barry’s Song, about Barry Marshall Everitt, Bex’s husband and owner of House Of Mercy) all the while leavening the mix with juicy slide and nicely constructed licks.

This is excellent stuff, just don’t expect unalloyed blues.

Reviewer Ian McKenzie is English and is the editor of Blues In The South, [] a monthly blues information publication. He is the producer/ host of two blues radio shows Blues Before Midnight on KCOR (Kansas City Online Radio: Fridays; and Wednesday's Even Worse on Phonic FM ( alternate Wednesdays.

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