This, the third album under the Mermaid Kiss name, is tinged with a bit of sadness. Founder member Evelyn Downing has decided to hang up her microphone. But she does immerse herself in her final album with the band; writing, producing and engineering throughout.
Mermaid Kiss albums, like their live appearances, are rare and need to be especially savoured as a result. They are always lovingly and intelligently crafted. The band seems to exist to make music for itself and for its hardcore fanbase – and others for whom they are a best-kept secret – but wider success has so far eluded them. Perhaps the next phase, with new vocalist Maria Milewska, will open up new pastures.
I have always thought the band could vie with the best of their genre but in a hellishly crowded and depressed marketplace they will have to push themselves a bit harder. Female-fronted, progressively-inclined, rock is no longer a novelty these days.
But the present? ‘Another Country’ has inevitably a different vibe to previous works. Perhaps it’s the subject matter, or maybe even Evelyn’s input, but it is definitely more pastoral and therefore closer in spirit to their debut nearly a decade ago. Truly a set of songs with the focus very much on Evelyn’s vocal delivery.
Only the early ‘single’ ‘Circles Of Fire’ really connects with former glories, an expansive piece with a sumptuous chorus and grand instrumentation spearheaded by Pete West’s lyrical guitar and Wendy Marks’ atmospheric flute.
‘Dust Bowl Bride’ is again skilfully executed and another highlight together with ‘Scissored Ground’. With inter-connecting pieces provided by Wendy’s cor anglais and Colin Henney’s piano the album has a widescreen aspect and I think achieves any aim to be an imaginary soundtrack.
Whilst Mermaid Kiss fit into the category of ‘progressive’ it would be wrong to pigeon hole, and ‘Another Country’ has a sometimes rootsy feel befitting of the subject matter.
All that is lacking in this imaginary road trip soundtrack are visuals but, wait a minute, those images are supplied at the band’s website, together with poems and writings that inspired this project and submitted by fans or website readers.
The whole production is, typically for the band, quite refined. ‘Another Country’ should perhaps be seen as a one-off – although a fitting tribute indeed to the departing Evelyn. We wish her well.
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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