Mercy Bell – Golden Child (Self-Released)
The first line of the first song off of Mercy Bell’s latest EP tells you everything you need to know about this stellar record. “Plan B and a Gatorade, another Walgreens on a Sunday/Blonde hair driving getaway, so no one has to know,” – from the title track – is confrontational, wildly relevant and brilliantly executed. As Bell sings, “We can’t have a Golden Child with mud on his face.” Though, there is definitely a strong 1990s Country vibe on the record (think more Lucinda Williams and Roseanne Cash, rather than the hokey Nashville neon sound), there are also some pretty strong parallels to more contemporary fare like Lilly Hyatt and Jaime Wyatt’s phenomenal Neon Cross.
Across seven tracks, Bell sings of breaking out from a repressive tiny town (“Big Sky, Wide Open”), looking back after breaking up (“Codeine”), and flawlessly covers Springsteen (“Atlantic City”). But one of the album’s finest moments – on a record filled with finest moments – is the fantastic, ‘fuck- yeah we’re gay’ theme, “Who Said We Were Friends.” It’s Bell’s smart, sly lyrics delivered with her seemingly nonchalant, but subtly powerful vocals that makes the song and album so charming. Impressively her voice swings as the song dictates from a cool croon (“One Night Life Stand”) to a full throated, singing to the back seats vocals (“Golden Child”). The only downside to the record is that it’s over way too soon.
Along with the release of Golden Child, Bell is also featured in the new documentary The Sound of Us, alongside other musicians like Ben Folds and Patti Smith. The doc was shot over two months across five countries during the pandemic last year. It focuses on the importance of music and performance in times of crisis. It’s already received an award at Cannes and is set to be released this fall.