Mandy Merciers third album rocks harder than anything shes done before, but it doesnt forget to roll, either; its as close as shes come to sounding commercial, if such a term can apply to a DIY effort.
As co-produced by the Austin singer-songwriter with John Harvey, Wild Dreams Of The Shy Boys is an exemplary disc of rootsy folk-rock that also bears the unmistakable stamp of guitarist-and-more Gurf Morlix. Merciers husky voice and her boundless energy and emotion propel the mini-dramas in these songs; its an instrument fit for the blues (such as her reading of John Lee Hookers Worry My Life) as much as for country. Her clipped phrasing gives rockers such as the opening Already Fallin real urgency, while ballads such as the bottom-heavy Anything Less and See It Now simmer with anxiety, sorrow and resolve.
Morlix provides an appropriately spacey solo on Make It Back To Midnight, while Ian McLagans burbling, swirling Hammond organ and Merciers own fiddle color the set. The guitars on No Foolin The Cards alternately ring and rumble, while the moral outrage on topical songs such as Homeless is palpable.
Except for the Hooker tune and her version of Lowell Georges Willin, reprised from a 1998 compilation album, the songs are all Mercier originals. The title track, with its traditional/contemporary imagery, is a fitting closer to an album that is confident and even a little reckless, tuneful and deeply felt. Mercier often gets lost in the shuffle of Austin singer-songwriters, but few of them can match her evocative songwriting and gutsy performances.