Artist: Mermaids in the Basement
Review by Rhonda Readence
Mermaids in the Basement (MITB) are an extraordinary musical act with a diverse range of influences and styles that converge to form the eternally pleasing rhythms and lyrics that MITB has become legendary for. With Sheela Fortner on vocals, accompanied by J. Jill Harris on guitar, Beth Whyle on bass, Robert Gibson on drums, and Jennifer McLaughlin as a performance artist, Mermaids in the Basement have combined their various skills and talents to create a well-rounded band that is enjoyable to listen to.
Their latest album, Reach, kicks off with "Reachdeep," a stripped down track with a catchy beat and well-written lyrics. Fortner's vocals are strongly delivered and this track is a great introduction to the rest of the album. "Wouldn't Change A Thang" has a melodic hook and a relaxing vibe that lends itself well to the lyrics that speak of acceptance. Instrumentally, this piece is executed skillfully and there is an edginess to the guitar work that gives this song an almost sensual appeal.
"Stand" likewise carries a mellow vibe. Fortner's vocals are gritty from time to time and her delivery is confident and strong. Vocally, this is one of the more standout tracks on Reach and Fortner's voice could be compared to the likes of Cher or Linda Perry of 4 Non Blonde fame. "I Don't Wanna" carries a faster rhythm and the lyrics are catchy. This will likely be a fan favorite, both the studio recording and the live performance. With a beat like this, fans will be dancing right along, and probably joining in the chorus as well.
"Free" contains some killer guitar work by Harris and exceptionally well-written lyrics that speak volumes of this band's ability to tap into human emotion and real-life experiences. Fortner's vocals are simply fantastic and fans will gain a better appreciation for her range and creative delivery. All in all, this is one of the more standout offerings on the album and showcases MITB's artistic essence. "Crazy Jane" is a track with attitude and Fortner again seems to channel Linda Perry in her own unique style. Fans will adore this song and will no doubt love to see it performed live. It simply oozes coolness and carries a bluesy rhythm that is contagious.
Reach continues its smooth essence with "The One," a slower ballad with moments of pure rock thrown in. MITB is a band that has a unique vibe that is part peacefulness, part coolness, part sensuality, and part bluesy rock 'n' roll. This track does a wonderful job combining all of these attributes into one solid track. "Rochester" is a great song that really allows Fortner to shine on vocals, not to mention the rest of MITB, respectively. This band writes some amazing songs, as evidenced by this romantic and sweetly sung piece of brilliance.
"Indigo" is yet another Mermaids in the Basement specialty, complete with solid vocals, skilled musicianship, and extraordinary lyrics. There is an energy to this song that is contagious and brings a sense of peacefulness and contentment to the heart. "Boots" gives Gibson on drums and Whyle on bass their chance to shine with this slick rhythm. MITB has attitude, you better believe it, and this song is full of it. They've taken this classic song originally done by Nancy Sinatra and put their own stylish twist to it. Nicely done, particularly Fortner's vocals. "Weathersong" is a slower number with a melodic harmony that will remain in the head long after the song is over. It's got a groove to it that is enviable and this contagious offering will likely become a fan favorite.
Reach closes with "I Wanna," perhaps a sequel to "I Don't Wanna," and it's what we've come to know and love about MITB. A solid performance by all members of the band, a tight sound, and killer vocals. Mermaids in the Basement is a band that knows exactly what they're doing, and they do it well. Not only is the music fantastic, but the vibe they exude is one of pure unadulterated coolness coupled effortlessly with a sense of melodic peacefulness. Not many bands can pull this off, especially within a studio recording, but MITB has done it with seemingly no effort at all. It comes naturally to them, just like their skilled musical ability and extraordinary songwriting skills.
5 stars (out of 5)