The Benedictions
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The Benedictions

Providence, Rhode Island, United States | SELF

Providence, Rhode Island, United States | SELF
Band Americana Rock

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"Providence!"

The Benedictions sound like they’re having too much fun to go seriously wrong even though they claim to Play Devil Music on their debut CD. And for all the minor-chording and back-delta strumming of Detroit Rebellion’s eponymous debut, what emerges from the music and the lyrics is the voice of the righteous believer, the kind of guy who might live outside the law to be honest, to paraphrase the Minnesota bard.

Both acts are from Providence, a town that in recent years has seen the emergence of lots of young bands that don’t play rock music—Deer Tick, the Low Anthem, Brown Bird, Barn Burning, to name a few. That is to say, in their songwriting and delivery there’s a common resistance to three chord rock and maybe a penchant for country and folk musics. Beyond that the latterly mentioned bands cannot, or probably should not, be lumped together.

As for the Benedictions, the “devil music” tag is a metaphor, clearly. Implicit in it is big aspirations for their sound and conversely, the risk of overreaching. For in such a culturally jaded place as America’s contemporary music scene, would anybody even feel it if the devil were chewing on their ass?

But one lives in hope. As G.W. Mercure, one of three very distinctive singers and writers in the band explains in the CD’s liner notes, “The songs on The Benedictions Play Devil Music share a commonality to their evocation of myth; they go directly to that myth. It’s hard folk, hard blues, hard country.”

And if that sometimes equates to sounding Stonesy or swampy a la Creedance Clearwater Revival, there’s enough jump and originality in the songwriting for the Benedictions to come across as deserving of their 2010 Phoenix Best Music Poll Award as Best Roots Act.

Mercure’s “Pawn Shop Guitar” and “Tell the Devil,” Kelly Burke’s “Lonesome Tears,” and bassist Rob Shot’s “Crying Shame” are the standout tracks, but make no mistake, the Benedictions are a unit who obviously dig each other’s songs and turn them out with collective spirit and finesse. - Shaking Like a Mountain


"The Benedictions Play Devil Music"

If what the Benedictions play truly is devil music, then can someone please point me to the nearest Satanic church so that I can fill out my membership application form? This record is a winning mix of country, rockabilly, and folk all played with a serious edge. They remind me somewhat of Death & Taxes, minus the punk influences. Having three lead singers each with a distinct voice helps keep things fresh, and the band knows that even in outsider music like this, you still need to have good hooks. While the singers are all strong, it’s the musicianship that truly stands out. The band is extremely adept at setting a scene instrumentally, be it the rush of an oncoming train or the desolation of a ghost town. At times, the Benedictions make me want to dance, and times they make me want to mosey. I can’t remember the last time a record moved me to undertake the underrated pleasure of moseying, so these guys are definitely aces in my book. (Kevin Finn) - The Noise-Boston


"The Devil Makes Them Do It"

"Americana, on the rocks" is the official tagline for the Benedictions, steady cooking since forming just 16 months ago (more on that in a minute), led by a familiar name on the folk circuit in G.W. Mercure. Their vintage blend of Neil Young, CCR, and Uncle Tupelo adorn their new debut, The Benedictions Play Devil Music, an album that will most likely land on our Top Ten of ’10. June has been one helluva month for the Benedictions, who just played a headlining set at the Block Island Music Festival, which followed an improbable Best Music Poll victory in the heavyweight Roots Act category. No offense to lap steel specialist Kelly Burke, bassist Rob Shot, drummer Mike Tomasso, and spokesman Mercure (who shares vocal duties with Burke), but going up against reigning champs the Wippets, plus acclaimed veterans the ’Mericans and the Wrong Reasons, the odds had to be off the board for the Benedictions. We had our bets on Brown Bird, and Mercure agreed.

“I thought Brown Bird would win, but I voted for the Wrong Reasons,” Mercure told me earlier this week, confirming the wisecrack comments made onstage at Lupo’s when the foursome accepted the plaque for Best Roots Act. He admitted the band viewed the nomination as “a tool to help achieve one of our goals, which is to play as many live shows as possible to good crowds.

“A younger version of myself would’ve shunned something like that, in defense of the music’s ‘purity’ or ‘integrity,’ ” Mercure said. “But I’m a post-modernist now. I do things like watch TV.”

Perhaps we should have cued up “Nobody Knows Me Here,” one of Devil Music’s many highlights. It was recorded at Newcastle Studio in Barrington but sounds like it was penned down on the bayou. Its spiked spirit scats across country, blues, and heartland rock and roll. Mercure and Tomasso grew up in Woonsocket and Cranston), while “Kelly is from Alberta, Canada — the prairies, the north country,” Mercure said. “His country roots are not contrived.”

From the honky-tonk opener “Pawn Shop Guitar” to the melodic twang of “Into the Empty,” the musicianship throughout the 13 tracks complement Mercure’s memorable quips and confessions (and he hits a mean harmonica on “Hat’s On the Table” and “Lonesome Tears”). But, for me, the back end of Devil Music catches fire, beginning with “California”; Neil Young inhabits Mercure, who unleashes this straight-faced singalong zinger: “LA County is burnin’ down and you’re just too hip for this little town, drinking your gin and tonic/Your T-shirt is so ironic.” On “Tell the Devil,” Mercure slings warnings like “he better be wearing his Sunday suit” and “I’m down in the devil’s world/I’m flirtin’ with the devil’s girl/I’m runnin’ my fingers through her pearls,” with drummer Tomasso kicking up the pace. “This Old River” and personal favorite “Rosie” are worth the 10 bucks alone.

We know the band members met at a Low Anthem/Badman/the Accident That Led Me to the World show at Firehouse 13 in February 2009, but the details will not be divulged by Mercure. “The story is apocryphal, and should remain so,” is all we get. But the timing seemingly couldn’t be better for an indie-roots band ’round these parts.The quartet is gearing up for a busy summer, with shows at the Everyman, the Mediator, and AS220. And Mercure notes there is plenty of material on the burner for another full-length. “There are 15 to 20 tracks that weren’t even considered for Devil Music, plus another half-dozen we’ve written since. “Some things won’t change too much, but we’re not in this to make the same album over and over again,” Mercure said.

Pick up The Benedictions Play Devil Music at CDBaby.com or iTunes, and visit TheBenedictions.com for live dates. - The Providence Phoenix


"The Block Island Music Festival"

Guitarist G.W. Mercure performed solo at last year's music festival. This year he returns with The Benedictions. Americana-infused rock reminiscent of The Band and Wilco is what The Benedictions do best. Performing regularly around their hometown of Providence, the band has honed their show into a precise yet loose journey down the back roads of sound.
-Marc Scortino - Captain Nick's Presents


"Introducing The Benedictions"

Rhode Island residents The Benedictions play what is often called called devil music. They must do because their just released album is called The Benedictions Play Devil Music.
On this occasion it’s hard folk, hard blues, hard country. It conjures images of grizzled old timers with whiskey eyes stamping their boots on beer-soaked wooden floors before heading back out into the dusty desert. It is authentic, powerful and not for the faint-hearted.
Check out the galloping Lonesome Tears and see if we’re not right. - The Mad Mackerel


"Best Music Poll, Best Roots Act Winner"

Newcomers the Benedictions, who just released The Benedictions Play Devil Music, serve up engaging fare for listeners with a predilection toward the Band, Uncle Tupelo, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Neil Young. The quartet says Devil Music is "Americana, on the rocks," brewed in a garage on a deserted heartland prairie. Guitarists Kelly Burke and G.W Mercure and bassist Rob Shot all share lead and backing vocals, anchored by drummer Mike Tomasso. The twang of "California" and "You May Not Be Alive For Too Long" cruise nicely alongside the toe-tapping "This Old River," while Mercure works in some mournful harmonica on "Hat's On the Table." "Crying Shame" and the fun gallop of "Lonesome Tears" are noteworthy midtempo highlights, but it's the high-spirited album opener "Pawn Shop Guitar" that keeps us coming back. - Providence Phoenix


Discography

"The Benedictions Play Devil Music," 2010
"Rhode Island Rockers 2011," 2011
"Four Corners Season Kick-Off 2010," 2011

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Bio

Winners of the 2010 Providence Phoenix Best Music Poll for Best Roots Act, and nominated again in 2011 by The Phoenix and by Motif Magazine, The Benedictions are an Americana/rock and roll band that has been playing straight-up songs, rough-hewn and dirty, since they formed in 2009. Their debut full-length, The Benedictions Play Devil Music, was released in June, 2010, to critical acclaim, landing on the Providence Phoenix's list of the year's ten best albums. They were featured on a compilation album by Essente Music Group, and are currently the subject of a music business course at Bryant University. During their three-year tour of greater Rhode Island, The Benedictions and singer-songwriter G.W Mercure have performed at the Block Island Music Festival, the ALCO Outdoor Concert Series, Rhode Island's AS220, Local 121, The 201, Jerky's Pub, Tazza Caffe, The Waterstreet Cafe in Fall River, been featured on Brown Student Radio and on various blogs.