Chris Mercer
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Chris Mercer

Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada | SELF

Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada | SELF
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The Mercers, This Island, Independent

Curtis Rumbolt - The Sunday Express, St. John's, Dec. 10, 1997

Reviewing the work of someone you know always presents problems. What if the artists don't agree with your assessment? Will the review jeopardize the friendship? Or will you hold a grudge for that Pink Floyd tape the musician borrowed and never returned? Such concerns often make it impossible to do a balanced review. Those concerns went out the window, however, with my first listen to This Island, the fine first effort by The Mercers - the father/son team of Bruce and Chris Mercer and many of their friends.

A mixture of original and traditional compositions, This Island gives listeners songs the duo have been performing for family and friends around kitchen tables, on camping trips, and other informal get-togethers for years. Though both Mercers largely limit their performances to such gatherings these days, they have performed professionally in the past. That professionalism shines through.

What you get on this compact disc is a dozen or so songs that are well-executed, somewhat understated, and beautifully arranged. On a couple of occasions the harmonies are a bit shaky, but the lead vocals provided by both performers are well done - the singing of the elder Mercer, Bruce, in fact, is reminiscent of folk legend Arlo Guthrie. Dave Pye also does a fine job on Cliffs of Baccalieu.

The musicianship, meantime, is superb throughout the album. While the duo execute fine arrangements of traditional tunes such as Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Wildwood Flower, and Mary of the Wild Moor, the four original tunes are the standouts here. Bruce's instrumental intro Paradise Lost is lovely, as is his song John's Pond. An accomplished guitarist, Chris shows great promise as a songwriter with My Island's Calling and Reason To Stay.

Overall, this is a great debut from two talented musicians. - The Sunday Express


Singing the Praises of Literacy: New Recording Aims To Encourage People To Accept The Concept Of Lifelong Learning

Paul Bickford - The Express, Sept 2-8, 1998

For one diverse group of performers, literacy - and lifelong learning - is something to sing about. They have recorded their thoughts and feelings on an album that will be released on cassette at the end of the month.

The album, entitled "At The Crossroads", is the work of the Literacy Celebration Singers, with the musical support of The Mercers , a father-son duo from Baie Verte. Bruce Mercer, the elder half of The Mercers, explains there is a wide diversity of singers and songs - many of them originals - on At The Crossroads. The project originated when Cynthia Matthews, the coordinator of the literacy outreach office in Baie Verte, approached Mercer about recording a song about literacy by Lisa House of Hawke's Bay. "That idea developed into the greater idea that maybe this should be something that should incorporate literacy on a larger level, and that we'd look to other people within the region and outside, if necessary , that might have similar interests and backgrounds," Mercer says.

In February, Mercer was hired as the recording project coordinator by the Baie Verte Economic Development Association. The finished recording features a diverse array of performers, who look at literacy and learning from many angles. There's Ignatius Matthews, a fisherman from Brent's Cove, White Bay, who sings his own comic song about make work projects. On the other side of the learning spectrum, there's MUN professor Wayne Nesbit from St. John's. Somewhere in between there's House, a former adult learner who is now a literacy tutor on the Northern Peninsula. Her song Standing At The Crossroads was the inspiration for the album's name. House says, when she wrote the song, she was thinking about people in mid-life who are facing a change in careers without literacy skills. However, she says, "Crossroads means for anyone." She is hoping that the collection of songs will help others seek literacy skills. "Hopefully, it will encourage them to seek education."

The project also has personal meaning for Mercer. "I dropped out of high school in Grade 8," he says. I went back and I did adult education." When his son, Chris, went off to university, his father joined him, and Bruce ended up with several university degrees. (Chris is the other half of The Mercers musical group, and helped his father produce At The Crossroads.) Bruce Mercer says that, years ago, there was a bad connotation in many communities with being an adult learner. But he says that has changed. "Literacy has basically become much more of a celebration, where people are really coming out and embracing it more and more as time goes by," he says. "It doesn't have that connotation with it anymore." The album is designed to highlight people's experiences and successes, and to help people overcome their fears, Mercer says. "But it's also to the general community at large to be able to influence them into the ideas of what it is to be a learner." - The Express


The Mercers, This Island, Independent

Randy Hutchings - The Newfoundland Herald, April 18-24, 1998

The local releases are coming out fast and furious. As we head into the summer season, we will be bombarded with traditional music from all over the province. The Mercers' debut CD is a little different. Recorded in various studios across the island, This Island takes a different approach musically than many of the releases we normally hear from the province. It has a bit of folk appeal with a hint of bluegrass as well as traditional thrown in for good measure.

All the songs are recorded and performed very well. There are fine renditions of Cliffs of Baccalieu, as well as a bluegrass medley that includes Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms, and I Saw The Light.

The father and son team of Bruce and Chris Mercer are no doubt very talented musicians. Their arrangements are well crafted and creative. Sometimes you wish you could turn up the vocals just a little though. Unfortunately, this duo doesn't perform live as much as they should. However, they now remain a part of our musical history with this release forever archived. With the summer being the best time for festivals and an abundance of live music, check them out if they are in your area. - The Newfoundland Herald


Ties That Bind

Mark Dwyer - The Newfoundland Herald, September 5-11, 1998

Sometimes it's more appropriate to just listen. So, rather than going into a detailed explanation of their relationship, Chris Mercer simply reaches for a folder, pulls out a colored photo and smiles. "There's two of us," states Chris, "myself and Bruce."

Their striking resemblance ignites this reporter to utter the inevitable question of - you' re brothers, are you? It's a query the father-son duo have been answering for almost a decade and a question the twosome have simply become accustomed to. But there's more to this story.

Chris no longer refers to his mentor and best friend as "Dad", opting for a more comfortable approach. It was a decision the two agreed on back in the mid-Eighties when "Dad", along with Chris, decided to enroll at Memorial University together. "After the first couple of days at MUN, no matter where we went, it just got tiring introducing him to everyone as Dad," said Chris, smiling. "People just assumed we were brothers so I started calling him Bruce; it just stuck I suppose, and I still do it today."

Ironically, it was in '85, their first year at MUN, when their father-son relationship took a new twist. Chris had just graduated with Honours in his Grade 12 studies at St. Pius X High School in Baie Verte, and was eager to begin university. Bruce, a welder-fitter and a Grade 8 drop out, wasn' t completely satisfied with his life and was ready for a new challenge. "As a family, we sat down and talked and decided that I should go to university, too," says Bruce, referring to the decision as a start to his "new" life. Amazingly, the two agreed to become roommates, a move most teenagers and parents wouldn' t even consider.

But the Mercers' relationship extends far beyond father-son kinship. "We' re best buddies, that' s the type of family we are," says Chris shrugging his shoulders. "The transition was easy and we enjoyed it." Bruce (or Dad) echoed his son's statements. "He's my spiritual mentor and the bonding over those 5 years was tremendous," says Bruce. "It' s much more than a father-son relationship." Evidently, both graduated from MUN in 1991, sharing the same stage: Bruce with a degree in Philosophy and Chris with a Psychology degree. "I can' t tell you how proud I was," explains Chris, when asked of his fathers accomplishment.

But it was also at MUN, back in the mid 80' s, when both realized their passion for music and sharing it together. That passion, nevertheless, ignited them in releasing their debut album earlier this year aptly entitled "This Island" . The 14 track recording, which includes performances from many of their family and lifelong friends, is truly a worthy listen. A mixture of original and traditional compositions, the album provides music lovers with songs that The Mercers grew up singing and performing at family gatherings and campfire sites.

The musicianship is, to say the least, impressive throughout the album, and The Mercers along with Dave Pye all boast powerful voices. Despite their admirable renditions of traditional tunes, like Sweet Forget Me Not and Salt Water Joys, the four original tunes are attention grabbers; John's Pond, Paradise Lost, My Island's Calling and Reason to Stay.

"This idea came about almost 10 years ago. I was playing with other groups around town and realized that I play my best music with Dad," says Chris, a guidance counsellor at Stephenville's College of the North Atlantic campus. "I sat down and told Dad about it, and he felt the same way. I guess that' s when we realized we should do something together."

Instead of visiting the studio, the duo recorded their album in their most comfortable venue. "We rented the recording equipment and did it in the living rooms with our friends," says Chris. "And it' s amazing how great it turned out." That's an understatement.

Without any promotion, the duo has sold over a thousand copies in the last year, and are already in the process of releasing another album next summer. Bruce, a teacher today in Baie Verte, admits a lot has transpired over the last decade. "It's neat how things have worked out. We realized our dream of performing together with our best friends and family and I can honestly say that myself and Chris are the best of friends today and I' m grateful for that too." - The Newfoundland Herald


The Mercers Release New Independent CD "This Island"

Andrew Freake - The Troubadour, March 17, 1998

Chris Mercer and his father Bruce have been spending a lot of quality time together over the past few months, but they haven't been doing the usual father and son activities.

The pair have been working on something they've wanted to do for quite a while; produce their own compact disc. The Mercers This Island was released in April 1998. "We spent about a year planning about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go with it", said Chris. A main concern was to get the CD out and give the public a taste of The Mercers' unique style of traditional folk and Celtic music. As well, it was important to get the right atmosphere on the recording. "Our best music comes out when our friends are around to jam or record with us; it's very spontaneous", said Chris. "The friends we invited are all exceptional musicians, but they are also the boys (buddies and good friends)."

Some of these friends include Mark Campbell Peddle (bass player for The Gravel Pit Campers, The Ennis Sisters, and Danette Eddy), Paddy Moran (fiddle player for The Punters and Tickle Harbour), and Frank Maher (accordion player for Figgy Duff and Tickle Harbour), as well as a host of others.

Two of The Mercers goals (to record and release a professional independent recording) have been accomplished. They are still working towards another goal; to keep recording and sharing their music. "If you ask us what we are, we are songwriters. All the rest, the arranging, producing, playing, singing, marketing, promoting, you know, the grind, it all supports us as a father and son who love to play together and who love to share our music with family and friends." - The Troubadour


Discography

The Mercers "This Island" (1997)
Radio play tracks - "My Island Is Calling", "No Reason To Stay", "Salt Water Joys"

Streaming audio tracks - "Sometimes", "Think", "John Flood", "Reason To Stay", "Everything In Blue", "Montreal", "Devil's Prayer"

Photos

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Bio

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