CD Review: Tender Mercies

I took a listen to a new debut album recently, the self-titled Tender Mercies, released October 24th this year, and I'm really enjoying it. The songs on Tender Mercies feel like they should have been around for years - and a few of them actually have.

Jumping into this album is like jumping into the history of the band because this is really a story about music written, played, loved, and never recorded. Band members Dan Vickrey, Charlie Gillingham, Patrick Winningham, and Kurt Stevenson had met and collaborated, then moved on to other projects. Vickrey and Gillingham joined Counting Crows and some of their original Tender Mercies songs even ended up on the Counting Crows' tour set list, just in case you were wondering why some of these songs, including "Wiseblood," "Four White Stallions," and "Mercy," sound so darn familiar. Twenty years later, the band members reunited and finally recorded the tracks found here.

This is absolutely Americana without irony, and the influences of folk, rock, honkytonk, and bluegrass are clear but the alt-country sound is entirely modern. All of the tracks feel very genuine, punctuated with acoustic and electric guitars, violins and keyboard, the songs sound perfectly balanced yet somehow spontaneous. The lyrics and vocals are heartfelt, running from spirited, such as "Ball and Chain," to the sorrowful "Almighty Trial." My absolute favorite track is "Angeline" and I also loved the simplicity and hopefulness of "Heavens Know." But I have to say I was happy with everything on this album and it really feels like it was a long time coming.

I predict that Tender Mercies is going to pop up as a new darling on Triple A radio stations everywhere, with some serious ear worm potential. If you're a fan of the alt-country, Americana sound this is definitely a solid addition to your library.

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