SISTER MERCY DIAMONDS REVIEW by the late Steve Pringle. (We cannot bear to take this down)
Sister Mercy’s new album, Diamonds… wow! It simply is amazing and I don’t say that lightly! It will be an honor for me to turn folks on to this album. I have Buddy Guy’s new track with Keith Richards and Jeff Beck right next to your music. I can’t say there are many locals I can do this with, so know…you guys have raised your bar quite a bit with this one. This disc has such a great sonic sound to it, and the writing is awesome as well. Each tune is thoughtful and well put together. It really does kick ass… you guys are the audio equivalent to a fine 15 year scotch…say a good bottle of Macallan! Steve Pringle KGON Sunday Night Blues
International Blues Challenge Semi-Finalist 2018
Portland Journey to Memphis Winner 2015 & 2017
International Blues Challenge Semi-Finalist 2016
Best New Band Muddy Award Nomination 2015
Rick Keys Blues Caravan Top 20 CD of 2018 San Diego
Best Contemporary Blues Band Muddy Nomination 2017
KGON Portland Best of the Blues 2018 - Steve Pringle
SHOWS AND EVENTS
SISTER MERCY possesses a high energy, blues driven sound. Lead singer April Brown is mesmerizing with her powerful, beautiful presence, full range vocals and complete joy in performance. The talented Scott Garcia adds guitar and vocal textures. Rounded out with Roger Espinor on drums, John Webb on bass and Debby Espinor on keys. SISTER MERCY has a unique place in the blues along with April Brown’s velvet voice the rest of the band supplies strong background vocals and original music. Semifinalist in the International Blues Challenge 2016 and 2018, SISTER MERCY was also nominated for Best New Band and Best Contemporary Blues Band for the Cascade Blues Association Muddy Awards. SISTER MERCY presents music that is a pleasure for the ears and a show that is a feast for the eyes.
Diamonds is definitely an album of note. There is nary a track included that doesn’t make you want to pay closer attention and jump up and dance! And believe me, they work just as effectively on disc as they do on stage!
That package contained “Diamonds”, the second release from Sister Mercy – the Portland, OR based band that consists of: April Brown on lead vocals; Scott Garcia on guitar and vocals; Roger Espinor on drums and vocals; John Webb on bass; and Debby Espinor on keyboards and vocals. The disc contains ten tracks of which seven are band originals.
The first impression Sister Mercy made on me took place before the music even started. As I looked at this picture of the band inside the CD jacket…..
I recall thinking that regardless of the type of songs, or styles in which they were played, that they’d probably be done in a very powerful manner. Sure enough, just like the zip code thing held true, so did the story the band’s picture told.
One of the disc’s three covers is a very well done version of the traditional “Traveling Shoes”. It’s a Gospel style smoker that features what I’m going to call the bands trademark – powerful, range roving, attention commanding lead vocals from April with very similar vocal backing by Debby. Throw in the added backup from the guys and you’ll swear your listening to a full fledged choir. Speaking of the guys, they’re getting in some musical licks as well. The strong rhythm and stinging guitar leads make the whole thing work as well as it does.
Although “Tell Mama” was written by Clarence Carter the song was made popular by Etta James. Etta’s version is best known for being an answer to an earlier song of Carter’s called “Tell Daddy”. In any event, had Sister Mercy been around during the Motown years, unlike Clarence or Etta versions, this ambitious rendition would have easily topped the R&B charts.
The album’s most traditional blues effort is an original titled “Beale Street” – the home to where it all goes down in Memphis, TN. Having been there several times as their blues society’s International Blues Challenge representative, and making it to the semi-finals both those times, it’s my interpretation that the song is an autobiographical account of the city’s merciless seduction of the band: blinding them with the bright city lights; wooing them with the sound of the blues and alluring them with it’s charm. Yep, Sister Mercy fell head-over-heals for Beale Street and they’ll never, never, never be the same. Welcome to the club! The track features a laid back, tight rhythm groove, several very nice slow blues guitar licks and as usual, the lead, harmony and backup vocals are the songs driving force.
The disc closes with another original titled “Stop Knocking”. Calling it a melancholic break up song would pretty much nail the description. Although it’s April doing the booting, the obvious pain exuding from her emotional vocals make it evident there will be a torch for her to bear. In spite of the sad subject matter, the duet featuring Debby – with an exquisite piano performance – and April – putting on a flawless, spell binding vocal performance – it becomes an incredibly beautiful song.
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