Reviews & Press
Wonderful article from a Dutch music magazine - translation to English underneath.
Mandy Mercier: "It's all there in the music"
Mercier is a singer-songwriter, harmony vocalist and violin/fiddle player. She grew up in Connecticut where she studied classical music and attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. She was involved in the Civil Rights, Antiwar and Women's movements from a young age, and attended the first Woodstock Festival. Mercier moved into New York after college and performed frequently. This resulted in moving to Austin - not just the capital of Texas but above the capital of Americana / roots / folk-rock. Mercier performed throughout Texas with her own band, and also working with an impressive list of colleagues: Lucinda Williams, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, Willy DeVille, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Doug Sahm, Gene Clark, Jimmy LaFave en Lyle Lovett.
Mercier has released three albums on Wild Cantinas Records, with a new album to be released in 2014. Mandy is very enthusiastic about it. The album is produced by Rob Meurer and engineered by George Coyne at Parrot Trax Studio's in Austin.
Run Out of Darkness
What an absolute belter of an album this is. Mandy Mercier is a veteran of the Texas blues and country scene as a violinist and vocalist working with, among others, Lucinda Williams, Billy Joe Shaver, Steve Forbert, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley and Ray Wylie Hubbard. For this recording Mandy has put aside her violin and concentrated on producing a straight-up blues record. The band she has put together consists of Ben Cocke (guitar and vocal), Marvin Dykhuis (guitar, slide and vocals), Andy Salmon (bass and vocals), Tommy Taylor (drums and vocals), Chris Dolan (organ), Dan Earhart (piano) and James Fenner (percussion). This is about as perfect a blues lineup as you could wish with the twin guitarists echoing the bold sound of early Fleetwood Mac and Dolan’s swirling Hammond organ sound giving it the fantastic feel of the 1960s blues greats. For material, Mandy has mixed some old blues favourites such as the Willie Dixon classic Spoonful, the perennial Sportin’ Life and Ball & Chain with some originals penned mostly by Mercier herself or other band members. These fit in right alongside the greats. The album kicks of with Spoonful and from and from the first drum beat you know what you are going to get— clean, clear blues played to perfection by a set of musicians who are really cooking. It is truly brilliant to hear the kind of blues lick that starts off the third track Call it Love. Dana Cooper adds superb harmonica on Special Delivery just to add icing just to add icing onto a very rich blues mix. The title track Run Out of Darkness is a Ray Wylie Hubbard song and Hubbard himself duets with Mercier on this track so I guess he must approve of her interpretation.
As for Mandy herself, apart from adding rhythm guitar she has a strong muscular voice. It is not a typical blues voice being slightly sweeter and more country than say Janis Joplin or Maggie Bell but she holds her own with the best of them. My only quibble, and it’s a slight one, is that on Ball & Chain she maybe tries slightly too hard to sound soulful when I think a more straight-forward rendering of the song would have been just as successful. All in all though a great blues record of the kind I didn’t think they made anymore.
KM - Maverick Country, England, July 2007
Singer In A Roadhouse Band
Review by John Conquest, 3rd Coast Music
Many years ago—has to be, because it’s been decades since I last read a copy—Rolling Stone ran a letter from a reader responding to a negative review of a Laura Nyro album, which ended up advising the writer never to set foot in New York—“Ms Nyro has friends here.” As the Austin Chronicle’s Jim Caligiuri discovered the hard way after he a wrote a negative review of Mandy Mercier’s Run Out Of Darkness (Wild Cantinas, 2007), Ms Mercier has friends here. In fact, among those friends are the many other Austin Chronicle writers who’ve lavished praise, over the two decades she’s been an Austin fixture, on her “piston-pounding pipes and fleet fiddle fingers,” as Christopher Gray once wrote in the same paper. In fairness to Caligiuri, who has the dubious distinction of being the only writer to trash a Jimmy LaFave album, while I share Bill Passalacqua’s perplexity as to why the Chronicle gives him certain assignments and why he accepts them, I will concede that Mercier’s vocals are something of an acquired taste, but the point he missed is that what so many musicians and music lovers love and admire about her is the total commitment, the way she gives it everything she’s got, holding nothing back. With Mercier, it’s as much about heart as art. Her latest album is a kind of ‘Greatest Hits’ collection which takes its title from a song that originally appeared on a long ago cassette and includes some tracks from an even earlier one made in California before she moved to Austin, but while the sequencing isn’t chronological, it works just fine. Of the 15 cuts, only three are covers, Blaze Foley’s Picture Cards Can’t Picture You, featuring Champ Hood on fiddle, and, from a 1994 KUT Live Set featuring Danny Young on rubboard, Bessie Smith’s Got Me Goin’ and Calvin Russell’s Eight Ball, the rest being well chosen selections from her songbook, peaking with Beautiful World, also featuring Hood, which ranks up there with Lucinda Williams’ best work. —JC
Run Out of Darkness
Review by Rob Patterson, Texas Music Magazine, Spring 2007
"Texas blues and country veteran Mercier finds her focus and hits a Joplinesque sweet-spot of raw power on this primarily bluesy set that finds her wailing on classics including Willie Dixon's 'Spoonful' and Big Mama Thornton's 'Ball & Chain.' She also gives Ray Wylie Hubbard's title tune a nice country-blues workout (with Hubbard himself as a guest singer)."
RUN OUT OF DARKNESS
Some dream of doing it, some try it, but Mandy can really do it: make a beautiful cd that bares her soul, from the first song to the last. Few artists have this passion and soulfulness. Blues fans should love this cd (her fourth) that offers a mixture of her own work and covers. The titlesong "Run Out of Darkness" is from Ray Wylie Hubbard, who sings harmony. Big Mama Thorton's "Ball and Chain" gets a Janis Joplin treatment which is quite daring, but Mandy pulls it off.
Over Mandy's voice: it's 80% Tracy Nelson (from the forgotten and underestimated band Mother Earth) and 20% Janis Joplin. The list of well known artists with whom she's shared the stage is endless but here are a few : Lucinda Williams, Joe Ely, Townes van Zandt, Doug Sahm, Angela Strehli, Lyle Lovett, and I could name a whole lot more, all buddies with whom she's performed fiddle or back up vocals on stage or in studio.
On her previous release "Wild Dreams of the Shy Boy" (2001) which was a rootsy folk-rock cd, she played once in a while the violin, but on this record she was destined to chose for the blues and thus there is no fiddle present. A top blues recording with strong covers such as Toussaint's "Hello My Lover' and "Spoonful" (W. Dixon), but also some of her own work that fits right in with the rest. It wouldn't surprise me to hear more of the name Mandy Mercier here in the Netherlands and rightfully so! (RON) translation by D.R.
RUN OUT OF DARKNESS
Some dream of it, and some attempt it. Mandy Mercier jumps up on top of it and beats it into submission. From the opening cut, Mercier attacks each song as if it will be her last. Few singers possess this type of passion for performing. Blues fans will enjoy the song selection on this 2006 release as Mercier blends covers, originals, and innovative arrangements of traditional tunes to produce a masterful album. Organ player: Chip Dolan, yes that Chip Dolan. (I once told Chip I was going to make him famous. I'm doing the best I can) Dolan's performance is neo-retro and perfect for Mercier's style. The title cut is a Ray Wylie Hubbard composition and Hubbard duets on the cut. Mercier's performance on "Ball and Chain" is worth the price of the disc. Not typical in her delivery, Mercier has developed a unique sound that makes her one of the best in Texas. Good friends and fellow MTM members Shake Russell and Dana Cooper both appear on the album as do Champ Hood and Paul Skelton. Excellent project top to bottom.
Mandy Mercier's third album rocks harder than anything she's done before, but it doesn't forget to roll, either; it's as close as she's come to sounding "commercial," if such a term can apply to a DIY effort.
As co-produced by the Austin singer-songwriter with John Harvey, "Wild Dreams of the Shy Boys" is an exemplary disc of rootsy folk-rock that also bears the unmistakable stamp of guitarist-and-more Gurf Morlix. Mercier's husky voice and her boundless energy and emotion propel the mini-dramas in these songs; it's an instrument fit for the blues (such as her reading of John Lee Hooker's "Worry My Life") as much as for country. Her clipped phrasing gives rockers such as the opening "Already Fallin'" real urgency, while ballads such as the bottom-heavy "Anything Less" and "See It Now" simmer with anxiety, sorrow and resolve.
Morlix provides an appropriately spacey solo on "Make It Back to Midnight," while Ian McLagan's burbling, swirling Hammond organ and Mercier's own fiddle color the set. The guitars on "No Foolin' the Cards" alternately ring and rumble, while the moral outrage on topical songs such as "Homeless" is palpable.
Except for the Hooker tune and her version of Lowell George's "Willin'", reprised from a 1998 compilation album, the songs are all Mercier originals. The title track, with its traditional/contemporary imagery, is a fitting closer to an album that is confident and even a little reckless, tuneful and deeply felt. Mercier often gets lost in the shuffle of Austin singer-songwriters, but few of them can match her evocative songwriting and gutsy performances.
From Dana Cooper's
website come these very kind words --
Mandy has truly come into her own with this gutsy collection of heartsore songs. A lot of living, loving, and loss are reflected here but always with a sense of hopefulness and willing, resilient spirit. Mandy has long been one of my dearest friends and this record is a landmark piece of work. Many talented Austin musicians contribute to the effort and the result is one rocking CD. Each song is a gem but some of the highlights for me are "Already Fallin,'" "Make it Back to Midnight," "See it Now," and the title tune "Wild Dreams of the Shy Boys." Those of you living in or passing through Austin check out the music listing and catch Mandy and her band live and definitely buy this CD."
Local Flavor says: "...Wild Dreams Of The Shy Boys...greatly surpassed the pre-release claims of greatness. Mandy, what a voice...wow. Sweet and longing on some of these tunes. Rockin' and wailin on others, plus genuine emotion on the powerful song about the school shooting at Columbine. She was actually there in Colorado when it happened and she brings a much needed lesson to us all."
Click to read the Austin Chronicle's review of Wild Dreams of the Shy Boys.
her peer, Lucinda Williams, Mandy Mercier's stock in trade is songs of
the heart -- broken or strong -- and she can deliver them with the kind
of performance that stays with you long after the last note has faded"
Lone Star chanter -- tightly whipped blues and particularly choice country
rock -- she's been called a petite keg of dynamite, Mandy Mercier, an
Austin, Texas expatriate who was consistently, positively drooled over
in her hometown press"
spirited, souful affair -- remember the name for future reference"
"Vastly underrated Mandy Mercier" -- Country Music International, Surrey, England
rocks far harder than Williams . . . connects with a strongly original
voice . . . long been raved about as a dynamic live performer and she's
successfully transferred that energy to tape"
onstage and delivers the moves, the looks and a voice that seems to need
two bodies to handle it . . ."
fiery fiddling is as arresting as her voice, a hair-raising throaty wail
custom-built for moanin' the blues . . . When the owner of a well-known
independent roots label asked me if there was anyone he should check out
[at SXSW] without skipping a beat I told him, 'Mandy Mercier.'"
Mandy Mercier . . . Wonderful, nonstop, Mandy Mercier . . . she plays
with her entire body, and sings with her whole soul . . . The fans who
spent the evening queing up breathlessly for Golden Smog or Liz Phair
missed a bet . . . gravel and honey-voiced Mandy Mercier . . . sang sweetly
as the lowriders and pickups that constitute South Austin's blue collar
rush hour rumbled . . . who knows, maybe next year Mercier will be packin'
'em in and 8,000 people can claim they saw her . . . "
Mercier, who ignited last year's Second Helpings" CD (Watermelon
1996) with a show-stopping "Turtle Blues," is as regular a fixture
. . . an Austinite who recently let Rusty Wier and Ray Wylie Hubbard borrow
her skills, and worked with Lucinda Williams . . . Mercier's fiery fiddling
is as arresting as her voice, a hair-raising throaty wail custom-built
for moanin' the blues."
all the music publications in town agree, somebody's either not doing
their job, or it's just an exercise where critics try and invent the cleverest
way to say, "Wow!" Such is the case with Mandy Mercier, whose
chain-rattling wail on "Turtle Blues" steals the "Supper
Sessions: Second Helpings" CD like second base. Words are nice, I
guess but with Mercier's piston-pounding pipes and fleet fiddle fingers,
"Mandy Mercier ... will inevitably show up before quitting time and blow the crowd away with some passionate, soulful singing that would make Janis and those who lived the blues proud." "Details," Austin, Texas, Rush Evans, 1996
people ask me what makes the Austin music community so special, the easy answer is nights like this. [A] benefit for singer Mandy Mercier
turned out to be one of the great shows of the year. The highlight was
a breathtaking set by Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock ... the glittering
lineup ... included Lou Ann Barton, Marcia Ball, Joe Ely, The Threadgill
Troubadours, Jimmy LaFave, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, and the Texana Dames"
[Nashville: Lucinda Williams, Rosie Flores and David Ball]
my friends to mourn me none," ... those words, written by Townes
Van Zandt long before he died, were indeed adhered to by his friends throughout
... tribute shows at the Cactus . . . plenty of perfect moments from Mandy
Mercier and Champ Hood's "Fraulein" to . . . Jimmy LaFave's
"Ain't Leavin' Your Love," "Tales of Townes,"
lilt, throb and growl in her vocals . . . have to be seen in the context
of her furious live performance for full impact. 'Forgiveness and Rage' is
a great album but it's a half-assed substitute for Mandy Mercier live."
Mercier . . . just floored me the other night ... when she hits the stage
it's a take-no-prisoners, all-out assault ... she's got the songs, the
moves, and a voice that seems to need at least two bodies to handle it
. . . feelings that come in the heart and dreams that come in the night
... if you've never witnessed this tornado get your ass there. I mean