Mermaid Kiss – Another Country

Way back in 2008, Mermaid Kiss made quite a few live appearances supporting bands such as Panic Room and Breathing Space. They performed as a semi-acoustic lineup, playing a mix of stripped-down arrangements of songs from their 2007 album “Etarlis” and brand new material from a project with a working title of “American Images”. Four years later, that project has reached completion as their new album “Another Country”

It’s not a long album; with a running time of an 38 minutes it’s closer to an old-fashioned vinyl LP, and this time it’s a digital-only release. The theme is an imaginary journey through the America of music and film; the nation as seen though the eyes of someone who’s never actually been there. The American Images page on the band’s website tells the stories behind the songs

There’s a strong emphasis on acoustic instruments, with a lot of flute, cor anglais and acoustic guitar. With touches of gospel and Americana the sound is closer to those 2008 gigs than to the symphonic prog-rock sweep of their previous album. It’s all very song-focussed, there are no lengthy instrumental passages, although there are some brief interludes of piano and cor anglais. But neither is it an unplugged record; there are electric solos courtesy of lead guitarist Pete West, and Colin Henney’s less-is-more keyboards add some effective atmospherics. Good as those two are, if anything the best instrumental performances come from woodwind player Wendy Marks with some evocative playing that’s a major component of their signature sound.

High points include the spine-tingling “Dust Bowl Bride”, with it’s haunting melody, evocative choral sounds and beautiful flute solo, and the simple but effective ballad “Comes And Goes”, with another melody that gets stuck in your head.

Evelyn Downing has progressed a long way in four years as a vocalist, giving an especially strong performance on “This Trail of Tears”. This recording marks the end of her work with Mermaid Kiss, as the band begin work on a follow-up to “Etarlis” with new singer Maria Milewska. It will be interesting to see what projects Evelyn involves herself with next.

I like this album a lot. It takes them in a slightly different musical direction while still keeping enough of a continuity with their earlier work. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s worth the wait.

It’s available for download from CDBaby.

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