An album that’s been 20 years in the making, Tender Mercies’ debut has finally come to fruition. Consisting of Counting Crows members Jim Bogios and Dan Vickrey, along with Patrick Winningham and Kurt Stevenson, the Tender Mercies have released an alt/country album that is rich in both substance and style.
Actually formed before his time with the Crows, Tender Mercies took a backseat after guitarist Dan Vickrey was recruited to play alongside Duritz and co., and even though the seeds were planted, a proper release from them wouldn’t emerge for another two decades. Given how consistently busy the Counting Crows are it’s a miracle this record was even made. Though the Crows have made a career traveling all over the world, that laid back San Fran feeling is definitely still here, and at times the vocal styling’s sound eerily reminiscent of other California contemporaries, most notably David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven.
Unlike the Counting Crows, Tender Mercies sports more of a country twang, which in no small doubt is due to Vickrey’s incredible guitar skills. The solos here are amazing, and his gentle bluesy feeling fits the arrangements perfectly. Everything’s in the right place, and even though 20 years is a damn long time to wait, the juxtaposition between Vickrey’s and Winningham’s guitars equal a very rewarding, if not solely relaxing, release.
The best thing about this album isn’t its pristine production, or excellent musicianship, it’s the stark honesty that it conveys. At times Tender Mercies can seem dull, and at others at can seem quite moving. There really isn’t anything special, nothing momentous, just honest, melodic rock n’ roll from a group that’s been a long time coming. Tender Mercies is the product of seasoned musicians that like to make music and have a knack for crafting a tune, which is something that’s always welcome in today’s muddled musical environment.
A hidden gem lost amidst the self-promotion and commercialism, Tender Mercies is a quiet homage to the classic Americana style. At the core of this album there is something beautiful, innocent and brutally honest. A subtle group with a powerful release, Tender Mercies is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise smoggy street.