Merripennie offers the perfect balance of intelligent pop and introspective-indie, all wrapped up in an intimate mix of acoustic sound that stretches the boundaries of the genres the band teases at…
6 tracks / 20:21 minutes
This tasty little EP called Merripennie (by the group of the same name) is twenty minutes of intelligent, introspective pop with a hint of roots and a thoughtful balance of acoustic and electric instrumentation. There’s a delightful sonic purity about the six songs – a feeling of intimacy and human interaction that’s all-too-often missing from much of the product in the current music scene. There’s not a wasted moment on these tracks and it’s that economy of performance that keeps you coming back to the project again and again.
Merripennie is Cindy Morgan Brouwer on lead vocals, concert uke, baritone uke and banjo, Stephen Leiweke on guitars, Chris Donohue on upright bass, electric bass, melodine, and baritone guitar, Elionore Denig on violin and harmony, Jordan Hamlin on clarinet, French horn, accordion and harmony and Ken Lewis on percussion. The ubiquitous Matt Slocum also joins in to contribute additional texture and warmth adding cello to Denig’s sweet violin lines.
The first three songs are more rhythmic and radio-ready, especially the wonderful lead-off track. “Trouble Magnet” is an infectious tune that won’t let you go once it gets into your head – the mix of expected and unexpected sounds (how many bouncy pop tunes include a waltz break, strings and an accordion?), clever lyrics, and distinctive, perfectly-delivered vocals make this the best possible way to introduce us to the capabilities of the band. “Candy,” a charming, playful song, continues the vibe with more of a pop hoe-down than the preceding track but with all of the same positive elements. The darkly romantic “The Kiss” completes what I think of as the ‘pop trilogy’ of the EP, with a catchy tome to the virtues, risks, enticements and rewards of the subject at hand. A ‘kiss’ is also a candy, and both can be trouble magnets, so planned or not, the first three tracks work exceptionally well together…..
The remaining songs share a more introspective, melancholy tone that highlight the strong melodies and Cindy Morgan Brouwer’s impressive vocals (more about those vocals later). The introduction of mellotron-like sounds and a sparser production create a dreamy, delicate vibe, especially on “Crying.” Finger-picked guitar and voice start out the delicate “White Dress,” which ends in a wash of beautifully-ethereal sound. Finally, “Blue” brings things to an end with a wistful, romantic musical sigh: “baby, what am I to do – oh, to do, If I’m lovesick and there’s no cure for me lovin’ you? You’re my favorite shade of blue…”
Now about that voice… Cindy Morgan Brouwer combines the passion of Over the Rhine’s Karin Bergquist with the quirkiness of Sixpence None the Richer’s Leigh Nash and the vocal surprises and dexterity of Fleming and John’s Fleming McWilliams. That’s quite a potent vocal soup there, folks. And, yes, Cindy Morgan Brouwer is Cindy Morgan. The same Cindy Morgan you might know as a multiple Dove award winner and a solo artist in her own right. This time out, instead of another solo project, Cindy wanted to do a project that ‘harnessed the creative power’ of some of her good friends from the Nashville area. Good call, Cindy…. Aside from providing earthy vocals, Cindy wrote the songs (sharing songwriting credit only on the wonderful “Trouble Magnet,” which is co-written by the legendary Wayne Kirkpatrick) and co-produced with the amazing Chris Donohue and Stephen Leiweke, with creative contributions from the rest of the players.
This self-titled tidbit whets the appetite for more of the same. Merripennie offers the perfect balance of intelligent pop and introspective-indie, all wrapped up in an intimate mix of acoustic sound that stretches the boundaries of the genres the band teases at. Kudos for stepping out….