Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: The Mercy Alliance - Some Kind of Beautiful Story

Songwriter Joe Rathbone had lived in several big cities along the East Coast, hanging his hat in towns like Philadelphia, Nashville, and Atlanta. But there was something about his new home place of Washington, D.C., that simply called to him, awakening his muse and drawing him into a place of reflection and creativity. And with the help of a few old friends, Rathbone has brought those reflections to life with the September 9th release of The Mercy Alliance’s Some Kind of Beautiful Story.

Those friends include Rathbone’s longtime drummer and collaborator, David Lopez, who smooth rhythms have played foil to Rathbone’s crunchy guitar tones. Also along for the ride are some featured percussion parts from former Counting Crows drummer Steve Bowman, bassist Brad Jones, and David Henry’s string work providing the final cherry on top. Helping to keep it all together is producer Thomas Johansen.
Sonically, Some Kind of Beautiful Story toes the fine line between indie pop and rock with touches of Americana thrown in for good measure. Opening track “Washington” is a solid collision of all three, Rathbone’s sweeping composition rich and breezy, his vocals warm and accessible with gentle notes of hope throughout. In contrast, “Angel of Mercy” segues fully into indie rock mode, Rathbone’s guitars gritty throughout, grinding against a melodic lyric and kicking percussion while “All For the Love of You” keeps those hardcore guitar licks flowing, accenting them with some compelling string work.
Some old school rock textures and a moody vibe color “Moving In Time,” Rathbone and company evoking some tension with minor chords as “This Is How They Know” lightens the load, bright tones and some tasty drum work and percussive notes, with more of Henry’s strings bridging things together. “I Can’t Do It” is a simmering pop rock gem, Rathbone’s guitars playing just along the surface, their textures willing the track to just the edge and being brought back by swells of strings and his own smooth vocal delivery before “Libertine” allows him the opportunity to let the cat out of the bag, delivering a funky groove that really shines. It’s a rich, bluesy jam that showcases his flexible vocals and creative guitar work and is one of the album’s clear highlights.
“Save Me” finds things drawn back into a mid-tempo flow, Rathbone delivering some solid falsetto notes and pleading tones across lines of reaching guitar and Lopez’s consistent backbeat. And perhaps saving their greatest creative moments for the last, The Mercy Alliance close out their latest offering with “Drifting In,” a track that offers up a plodding yet engaging path, guitar feedback echoing thoughts of static reflected in the lyric as a myriad of textures build in the background. It’s a track that closes without any real resolution but, for some reason, that seems to work here.
Joe Rathbone and The Mercy Alliance have conceived of an album that is right in their wheelhouse, allowing for each component to shine while still contributing to the whole. At the forefront are Rathbone’s well-crafted lyrics and vocals, crooning throughout these nine tracks with purpose, while his guitar playing shows stellar creativity and musicianship, giving the rest of the members a launching point. And they build upon that and have crafted a worthwhile listen in Some Kind of Beautiful Story, a listen that will no doubt have many going back for more.
For more info on The Mercy Alliance and Some Kind of Beautiful Story, visit

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