Founded in Derry/Londonderry; Grace & Mercy is the encompassing of five University students who first formed through those creative jamming sessions that either come together nicely, or only serve to infuriate flatmates and neighbours alike. The later seems to apply to Grace & Mercy based on their inaugural EP released earlier this year.
As a music reviewer it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to nail down artists and bands to particular genres, which are themselves continuously morphing. When faced with this problem, as this EP has, all I can do is present some comparisons and characteristics and let you- as autonomous music lovers decide for yourselves. Led by the strong and yet harmonising male and female vocals of Louis McTeggart and Birmingham-bred Mercy Levett; alongside acoustic strings, subtle drums and soul-filled rhythms I can only place the band as somewhere in between the Civil Wars and Alabama Shakes. Not a bad place to be, to be fair.
The EP opens with the urban feel of ‘Be.you.tiful’; an early and impressive declaration of Levett’s vocal control and pitch, backed by rhythmic percussion and acoustic guitar chords. The track opens the EP’s curtain with a charismatic yet affirming song, confirming that you are indeed beautiful, and that alone is enough to stand up as yourself and ‘be you’.
Track two draws from McTeggart’s song writing prowess as a solo-artist and is entitled ‘It’s a Draw’, which gratifying or not, once featured on an episode of Hollyoaks. Reworked and recorded to fit Grace & Mercy, the song is worth holding on to as McTeggart takes the lead on what is probably the EP’s most composed and melodic track. Revolving around the dynamics of a relationship on the edge of grasp but still a pillar on the mind ‘It’s a Draw’ introduces the more serious elements to come in the remaining tracks.
The midpoint brings my favourite track on offer- ‘Two Years’. Plucky and rhythmic, the track is well written and beautifully delivered by Levitt primarily, whilst McTeggart’s harmonic input serves to build up the desperation of the protagonists in their situation and their inevitable failure as two months of absence turns to two years in fewer than four minutes. The musical structure fits the lyrical substance impressively and conveys musical empathy from a band founded by music students. A drop in pace is provided by the softer ‘Near To Me’ as the vocalists combine to vitally harmonise on this heavily folk influenced song. Crafted with brittle melodies ‘Near To Me’ builds slowly around its lyrics, and is perhaps more favourable to lovers of stories and lyrics rather than instrumental swag.
The swag returns however to see us out the door in ‘Peace is Found’ which offers us some closure and once again showcases the striking vocal range of Mercy Levett and the partnership building with her male counterpart.
The EP can at times come across as being somewhat unpolished and there is nothing particularly extravagant musically.Instead it remains fairly conservative and maybe lacks a little bit of independent quirk. Should they wish to branch out however, it seems that the quintet would be more than capable based on this release. The song-writing material is impressive for a first EP, and the vocal arrangements alone are enough to provide foundations in establishing a sound Grace & Mercy can call their own.
◀ STANDOUT ⁞ Two Years ▶
◀ SOUNDS LIKE ⁞ Civil Wars | Alabama Shakes ▶