For those who like bare-bones music, Fistful of Mercy’s debut – and perhaps only offering – As I Call You Down will be a collection of harmonic treats that have the ability to put a person right there in the room with the performers. But for the rest of the population, this well-intentioned album is a bit too one-note to spend a great deal of time in iPod rotation.
Undeniably a supergroup, Fistful of Mercy features the talents of Dhani Harrison (the late, great George Harrison’s son) Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur. All three have slightly differing music styles, but one thing is clear on As I Call You Down – they all have plenty of intense passion and love for their craft. This is particularly evident through the album’s complex yet near-perfect instrumentation – something that certainly stands out on the vocal-less “30 Bones” and fancifully quirky “Things Go Round,” which provides a pleasant sonic respite towards the album’s close. Some might call the track downright weird and eerie thanks to the squeakier vocals and overall fast pace, but since it doesn’t heavily feature rhythmic acoustic guitars – like the first three tracks – it has a curious freshness.
And yes, those first few tracks have to be mentioned, even if only to say that they prove it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. The album’s opener, “In Vain or True” gets the Beatles association and vibe out of the way through its tight harmonies and in its simplicity – just acoustic guitars, a bit of percussion and vocals. And no matter what, it’s a well-structured track. Yet the following songs, “I Don’t Want to Waste Your Time” and the album’s title track are so similar in structure and tone, that they needlessly blend together – and almost bring down the mood. Without bringing anything new so close to the album’s start, many a listener might even be prepared to switch off, despite the friendly and raw in-the-studio sound. However, keeping things au naturel doesn’t emit enough energy to keep the album’s pace going.
Fortunately, As I Call You Down has one utterly outstanding track, Father’s Son – an angsty, blues-ridden tune complete with rhythmic hand-clapping and a jarring melody. Undoubtedly, this wakes up the sleepy creativity thanks to its protest-song spirit that catapults listeners to the album’s second half. Yet while this tune is great, it’s not really enough to make this album any more than a pretty neat project and cool insight into how three very talented musicians came together to lay down some tracks.
Crosby Stills Nash And Young – Déjà vu
Junip – Rope and Summit
Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning