From Counting Crows songwriter and guitarist Dan Vickrey comes Tender Mercies, a self-titled album chockfull of country-rock goodness. Opener Safe and Sound kicks off with warm guitar and gentle vocals that catch and hang on the long notes, an accurate sample of whats to come.
Theres nothing particularly innovative here, but thats not to say that the album isn’t good. On the contrary, Tender Mercies is an easy listen, sliding through your speakers on smooth guitar and a touch of late afternoon sunshine. There are some country-style lyrics (Look at you/youre as pretty as a picture/sitting there in your only dressand yes, she does get ditched with a baby), but these moments avoid stereotype by virtue of their earnest delivery, and the whole package is surprisingly easy to swallow.
The quiet grace of tracks like Heaven Knows is balanced by the honky-tonk swagger of Wiseblood (I was the kind of boy the devil always offered a smoke and a drink to). Avid Counting Crows fans may recognize the latter as a popular CC cover of the Kurt Stevenson song, though Vickreys version does the spirit of the song more justice than the Crows (which, bless them, sounds basically like all their other songs).
Similarly, Crows tracks Four White Stallions and Mercy retain more of their bare-bones, countrified flavor here. Also benefitting from Vickreys writing talents and the bands simple delivery are new releases such as Ball and Chain and Almighty Trial. The closer is old-timey country jam Faded Memories, which makes you want to kick up your boot heels and twirl your special lady around the bar.
This sort of feel-good country rock would be right at home on the festival circuit; Vickrey and co. might be wise to investigate the summer schedule. If youd like to pretend its summer right now, the warm, down-home jangle of Tender Mercies will help you set the mood.
Essential Tracks: Wiseblood, Safe and Sound