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Bex Marshall

The House of Mercy

(1-2-3-4 Go; US: 12 Feb 2013; UK: 17 Sep 1012)

Stomping set of roadhouse blues

Bex Marshall kicks out some raunchy, sashaying, gospel-inflected, guitar-goddess-driven, rocking blues on her latest full-length, House of Mercy. This is a terrific album from start to finish, full of unexpected moments, ranging from the gospel-rock styling of the title track to the stomping closer, “Guilty”. Marshall isn’t a belter, but her voice is able to curdle and moan expressively, and her fingerpicking and string-bending are impressive. Slow tunes? Got ‘em (“Rattlesnake”, “Barry’s Song”). Uptempo booty shakers? Got those too (“Love”, “Bourbon Street”). An array of instruments flesh out the basic guitar-drums-bass sound, with everything from harmonica on “Bite Me” to dobro and mandolin on the title track to banjo on the excellent chug-a-lug of “Tough Times”. This is boogie-woogie roadhouse stomp at its best, elevated by precise musicianship, gutsy vocals and Marshall’s relentless unwillingness to do the same thing over and over. Give a listen and put yourself at her mercy. You’ll be glad you did.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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