Wild Dreams of the Shy Boys (Wild Cantinas)
Although not yet as prominent a figure around town as she deserves to be, Mandy Mercier's significance to the local scene was perhaps best illustrated when a benefit concert was held on her behalf a few years back in the wake of having suffered a life-threatening illness. A virtual who's who of local singer-songwriters and fellow musicians lent their services to the cause. Not surprisingly, Mercier's first new release in several years finds her right at home surrounded by many of the top veteran players in town, with a core that includes Gurf Morlix, Champ Hood, and Ian McLagan out front, and bassist Glenn Fukunaga and drummer Tommy Taylor anchoring the sound. A multi-instrumental dynamo live, Mercier sticks to rhythmic accompaniment here, letting her songs do the talking. She is all too often (and perhaps unfairly) compared to her friend and colleague Lucinda Williams, because they mine much of their material from the triumphs and tragedies of love and heartbreak. Original numbers like "Already Fallin'," "Make It Back to Midnight," "See It Now," and "Ready for Me," are well-crafted tunes that reveal a sensitive woman of strength and vulnerability. If any of her tunes should be compared to those of Lucinda, it's the stunning title track, as much for its haunting, evocative, and vivid imagery as for its bittersweet reminiscence of faded love. Mercier also taps into timely spiritual and social concerns on "Judge Not (Columbine)" and "Homeless." Add to this traditional blues, a Blaze Foley chestnut, and her particularly poignant female perspective on Lowell George's trucker anthem "Willin'," and it's easy to see why Mercier's fans will be delighted with her return to the fore.