FAME Review: Bex Marshall - The House of Mercy
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Bex Marshall - House of Mercy

The House of Mercy

Bex Marshall

House of Mercy Records - 002

Available from Amazon.co.uk.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com)

Bex Marshall has a true rebel's / blueser's / outcast's history, having served as a croupier from age 18, presiding over illegal poker games and such, and then, when times were lean, busking for the coming night's supper. More, she hails from a blend of landed gentry and Irish Romany, and as a musician proved to be just as maverick in her appetites as in the rest of her eclectic existence, starting out on classical guitar, then flamenco, landing finally on rock/country/blues. I won't be a bit surprised if she one day decides to head in Frith/Bailey directions just for the hell of it, in an aesthetic fling, caution thrown to the wind. Upstarts are like that.

Vocally, Marshall's credited with Joplin and Armatrading tendencies. I see the Janis element clearly but not Joanie's trademarks, a woman who's distinctive and who made her most memorable mark in that eponymous 2nd LP, which will, when I get around to writing the damn book one day, stand as an ingredient in the true sonic omnivore's basic collection. But, no, Bex is much more in league with Darby Mills (Headpins) and my hands-down, all-time, favorite female vocalist, Janita Haan (Babe Ruth), with even a bit of Joy of Cooking's Garthwaite and Brown tossed in. Mills and Haan were tornado sirens, consumed in their art, and there's a hell of a lot more of their ilk of blood and passion in Marshall than Joan will ever be able to encircle. Then there's Bex's guitar work, which, frankly, I detect quite a bit of Rory Gallagher in. Maybe it's that Gaelic thingie, but her phrasing, quasi-psychedelic wont, and linear lead lines get my own Irish up as tune after engaging tune erupt from The House of Mercy. She doesn't tear long-form-loose here, the compositions all circling the 4-minte mark, but I'd love to hear her cop a many minutes Rory-styled lead-line orgy.

Ah, but there's more. Marshall's a triple threat 'cause she quills tracks standing solidly with the established brethren and sistren, songs reeking of funky grease, belladonna, bayou road bars, long long nights, hoarse morning afters, whiskey, bourbon, and a string of laments and delights as extensive as both your arms…and your brother's and sister's as well. Her music's gumbo thick, rich with hard-won experiential sauces, spices welling up from the underside, and smokily enticing, the enchantingly fulsome refrains drifting through the landscape with earthy mystery and bon ton roulet. Lotsa heart, tons of atmosphere, years of authenticity, and zero bullshit.

Track List:

  • The House of Mercy
  • Love
  • Bite Me
  • Gone Fishin'
  • Rent My Room
  • Rattlesnake
  • Tough Times
  • Big Man
  • Bourbon Street
  • Barry's Song
  • Guilty
All songs written by Bex Marshall.

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
 
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