The Mercy Brothers
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The Mercy Brothers

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"The Mercy Brothers get on Grammy Nomination ballot"

The Mercy Brothers' good week continues as the local band just got word that it is officially on the Grammy Nomination Ballot for Best Americana Record.

Lead singer and guitarist Kevin Sekhani said the band is one of many bands chosen to be potentially nominated for the Grammy. Among other artists on the ballot for the upcoming ceremony are Bob Dylan for his latest album "Tempest," The Avett Brothers for its latest album "The Carpenter" and The Alabama Shakes for its latest album "Boys and Girls."

"It's awesome, especially when you look at the records up for the category," Sekhani said. "Just to be in that category of, what an honor."

Sekhani and the band will find out around December whether they got a Grammy nomination. The Lost Bayou Ramblers also got on the nomination ballot for Best Regional Roots Album for its latest album, "Mammoth Waltz."

Sekhani knows the odds are stacked high against The Mercy Brothers, but he's pleased to be even considered.

"You think about all these guys, and you bought their records, and now, you're right next to them," he said. "It's very cool. It's a positive thing. The voting members take a listen to these records, get access to your record. More people than before will hear your record."

This isn't the first time Sekhani has made the Grammy ballot. In 2009, his solo record "Sumner Street" received a nod for consideration.

"That year, the record sat next to Dylan, Willie Nelson, Wilco," he said. "It makes you chuckle and just say, 'Wow.'"

The Mercy Brothers are having a stellar year off the release of "Holy Ghost Power!" The band has performed at Festival International, South by Southwest in Austin, as well as made regular stops across the bar scene in town. When they get some down time, Sekhani said they won't stop.

"It's been a nice year for the band," he said. "We've got a ton of material written for whenever that next record takes place. We're incredibly grateful and flattered for all the things that are happened for the band."

The Mercy Brothers will perform from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. today at the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles at the Louisiana Bicentennial Stage. - The Daily Advertiser

"Lafayette's Mercy Brothers to preach a sermon of 'hillbilly gospel'"

During his 20-plus years with acclaimed southwest Louisiana rock band the Bluerunners, Mark Meaux stepped onstage in whatever he was wearing. Usually that included his heart on his sleeve.
mercy brothers.JPGThe Mercy Brothers will play their brand of "hillbilly gospel" music at Chickie Wah Wah on Saturday, Aug. 18.

Not so his new band, the Mercy Brothers. The Mercy Brothers traffic in “hillbilly gospel,” a synthesis of old-time honky tonk swagger and revival tent spirit. The musicians dress up in vintage Western-style coats and hats, and frontman Kevin Sekhani inhabits the character of a preacher as he sings/sermonizes. They perform on Saturday, Aug. 18 at Chickie Wah Wah.

“I never envisioned myself doing this,” Meaux said recently. “Not that I was against it. It just didn’t occur to me. It was out of left field.”

With the Lafayette-based Bluerunners, Meaux married garage rock attitude and distortion to Cajun instrumentation. Signed to major label Island Records, the Bluerunners toured widely, but never broke out of the club circuit.

They still reunite for occasional concerts, mostly in Lafayette. In search of a new full-time pursuit, Meaux approached Sekhani, a veteran Lafayette bandleader who also had logged several years in Austin.

As they kicked around ideas, Sekhani proposed a “hillbilly gospel” band. Their mutual affection for the 1997 film “The Apostle,” which starred Robert Duvall as a fallen preacher in search of redemption, provided inspiration.

“When we started talking about the movie, the idea for the band really fell into place,” said Meaux, who worked as a driver for June Carter Cash during the film’s south Louisiana shoot. “Because it’s not just preaching — there’s so much show business and charisma. You can inhabit a character and not just be heart-on-your-sleeve 24/7, like the Bluerunners were. There’s an inherent carnie aspect, but also a sincerity, and real energy you can’t deny.”

The idea was to sound more “old-timey” than country. Sekhani cited Bob Dylan’s Christian albums as examples of his intent. “We drew on a lot of that,” Meaux said. “I dug those records. I had those records. I just never pictured myself in them.”
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Sekhani also noted that Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Elvis Presley, among other giants of Southern music, all had roots in gospel.

“You can really address every genre in the Southern music handbook from a gospel perspective,” Meaux said. “Muscle Shoals, the Mississippi Delta, Western swing … there are all these possibilities.

“But if it doesn’t rock out, it doesn’t matter. Once Kevin had me understanding that, I was all in.”

The Mercy Brothers also include founding keyboardist Garland Theriot, bassist Matt Thornton and new drummer Dave “Papa Puff” Nezat, a veteran of Chubby Carrier’s hard-touring zydeco band.

In the Bluerunners, Meaux played guitar, accordion, mandolin and fiddle. At Sekhani’s suggestion, he learned slide guitar as his primary focus in the Mercy Brothers.

“I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I can just do one thing. I’m not particularly proud of how I’m playing, but it’s getting a lot better.”

Six months after forming in 2011, the Mercy Brothers cut an album, “Holy Ghost Power!” The band’s repertoire consists of original compositions and covers suitable for either Saturday night or Sunday morning. They sometimes end shows with the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” is another favorite.

“ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ works well because people know it, and it’s super fun,” Meaux said. “That’s obvious from the get-go.

“And in any Hank Williams tune, when you think of what he went through and what he sang, you get a dose of good vs. evil, the sacred and profane.”

Meaux has come to embrace the idea of costuming onstage, a concept that was anathema in the Bluerunners.

“I love it. You’re presenting something that’s a little more than just guys jamming out. And it gives you an identity and helps you get in the groove when Kevin is the preacher. He’s great at inhabiting that role, and also the roles of the people in the songs. If we were all in regular clothes behind him, it would be ridiculous.”

Sekhani is not out to actually evangelize onstage, but neither does he mean to poke fun at those who do.

“We didn’t want to mock anybody, whether it’s the hipster atheist or the born-again folks,” Meaux said. “We walk that line, and I love that. It’s so ambiguous. It’s fun, but not funny. It’s not a gag, it’s not all shtick. It’s its own thing.

“We try to tap into that energy. It’s like lighting a fire. You drop the match and, boom.”

THE MERCY BROTHERS - The Times - Picayunne

"Holy Ghost Power"

If you were looking for a cultural epicenter for this weekend's Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, a moment that quietly summed up the last couple of centuries of Cajun culture, you'd be hard pressed to find something more appropriate than Sunday morning's French Mass.

Tucked away on the west side of Girard Park under the Bicentennial tent, the mass pays homage to the Catholic and French traditions that shaped — and continue to shape — so much of what Acadiana is.

But this year will be a little different. That steeped traditionalism in the hour before the festival kicks off Sunday morning will turn, by lunchtime, into a rambling, brimstone-and-fire carnival rooted more deeply in the Midwest Dustbowl and wandering preachers of the 1930s. Yes, brothers and sisters, Lafayette's Mercy Brothers will make their Festivals Acadiens debut.

And yes, they are feeling the love.
Diversity in the new age

For Lafayette's Pat Mould, the Bicentennial tent at this year's festival has a specific purpose.

"We wanted to have a place that represented all of the kinds of music in Louisiana," Mould said. "We have a brass band and some swamp pop by way of T.K. Hulin from Lake Charles. We have blues from Henry Gray of Baton Rouge."

Mould caught the Mercy Brothers set on the Scene Chevron during Festival International and immediately recognized the electricity between the band and the audience.

"I felt the energy," he said. "It was really great. I could see the way the audience was reacting. It was a positive feeling."

The acclaimed chef called Kevin Sekhani the next day and extended an opportunity to the band.

"The French Mass is very traditional," Mould said. "We wanted to come back with something different, a contrast. And even though the music has that hillbilly/rockabilly sound, these guys all have their roots in Cajun music."
Finding a calling

It was only a year ago that former Bluerunners frontman Mark Meaux and singer/songwriter Sekhani first began appearing on stage in their shoestring ties and straw hats, leading the equivalent of gospel revivals in area clubs. But the seeds of that gospel-billy tent show started much earlier, in conversations between Sekhani and keyboard player Garland Theriot.

"Kevin and I had talked about something that looked a little bit like this," Theriot said. "It was just an idea. Then one day he calls me up and says, 'Let's do this Mercy Brothers thing,' like old-timey gospel type stuff."

Theriot, a self-taught prodigy who wheedled his first keyboard out of his mother at age 4, developed his ear listening to the radio and following along to the sounds he liked. Growing up in 1980s Kaplan, he says the distractions vying for his attention were not overwhelming.

The end result for Theriot was a musical diet and tastes in his formative years based on radio, pop and the traditional sounds that inundated south Louisiana's airwaves.

"When I started thinking about it, all of the music I used to listen to as a kid that led me to play piano was gospel. Like Ray Charles — when you listen to Elton John, it's basically gospel — Stevie Wonder"» it's all gospel music."

The core of the original Mercy Brothers — Sekhani, Theriot, bassist Cal Stevenson and drummer Greg Walls — had already played together in one form or another in Sekhani's solo band. It was the addition of Meaux and the focus on a new genre that kicked the project into gear.

"The first time we ever got together, I felt like, 'There's something going on here,'" Theriot said. "In the middle of that first rehearsal, you could tell there was something there."

For Meaux, the luxury of not fronting the band is different, but it is a role he has no problem relinquishing.

"I love having the luxury of focusing on the guitar," he said. "And besides, Kevin is amazing at what he does."

All you have to do is load up "Rise, Devil, Rise" from the band's debut disc to hear what Meaux is talking about. Even in the audio recording, Sekhani's exhortations, along with the call-and-response choruses, can make the listener involuntarily "Amen!" while driving along to the music.

"As good as Garland is with the harmonies and the high parts, and with Kevin holding down the middle, I don't even know why they let me sing," Meaux laughed

Organic - it's what's good for you

The one thing the band is, despite the impression the hats, ties, parlor coats and exultation may give, is sincere. According to Sekhani, this could be the first honest to goodness project that he hasn't tried to craft into something it is not.

"The funny thing is that I have ruined so many bands trying to make it sound like what I think it should be, or what I have in mind for it," he said, "but with this group, I said, 'It is what it is, and I'm going to follow that. Whatever it is, it will reveal itself.' And wow, it did."

The immediate sense of "something" that Theriot picked up on was not lost on the other band members.

"The first time we all started playing music together, there it was," Sekhani said. "Mark and I just looked at each other and said, 'Well, let's put the seat belts on and see how fast this thing goes.'"

How far the Mercy Brothers have come is less amazing than the fact that they have done it in a year. Sekhani calls it a whirlwind, but one that has been very rewarding for the band. This time last year they were in Austin, playing a series of shows including two nights at the vaunted Continental Club. Following that were more gigs, some festival appearances, and a lot of recording time at producer Ivan Klisanin's studio in Lafayette.

The result of that time is the band's "Holy Ghost Power" CD, chock full of songs that beg to be played through an old RCA tube radio. Unknown to many of the people who have heard the band live, the songs are not remakes or covers of traditional but new compositions by Sekhani and Meaux.

"You remember all that stuff on KVOL , AM radio on Sundays," Sekhani said. "We were raised on all that and you forget how much of that stuff you retain from your childhood. Those old AM sounds, when you start piecing those songs together and putting those sounds together, it's like, 'Yeah, that's exactly it.'"
Finding real roots

For Sekhani, the discovery of old sounds goes beyond his childhood recollections. While playing a show at Grant Street Dance Hall shortly after his return from Austin in 2010, several members of the McGee family showed up. In talking after the show, Sekhani learned that they weren't there just because of the music. He was a relative not only of theirs, but also of Cajun fiddle great Dennis McGee

"Coming back to town and meeting that side and finding out that, yeah, there was a branch down the line, that was an amazing revelation," Sekhani said. "When you look at the tree, the Cajun music tree, and see where he is right at the root, is incredible."

Sekhani points to the similarities between those old recordings of McGee and Amedee Ardoin as a touchstone for what the Mercy Brothers are doing now.

"You listen to these old songs, and they were things families sang in their living rooms," Sekhani said. "They were sing-a-longs, and you've got to be pretty dog-gone honest to pull that off and make that work."
Reaching the masses

The next phase for the band is to expand the faithful, growing audience and repertoire. That means more recording, and more touring. And, after a year, it meant a change in personnel.

"This thing looks like there's a demand for it, in other places as well," Sekhani said. "Those gentlemen, Cal and Greg, will always be Mercy Brothers. It just looks like this might go a little further as far as geography."

Toward that end, the band has adopted a new rhythm section — drummer David Nezat, who most recently did some 438 gigs in 20 months with Grammy-winning zydeco artist Chubby Carrier, and bassist Matt Thornton, a longtime musical accomplice of Nezat's.

It's not the first time Nezat, a Eunice native, has crossed paths with Meaux. In fact, it was Meaux who tipped him off to the Carrier gig.

"I got here from Colorado and I ran into Mark Meaux," Nezat said, "and we jammed a little. He told me he heard Chubby was looking for a drummer, so I went out and put together a resume of sorts with some CDs I had recorded on."

That resume, even prior to the Carrier stint, was impressive. His credits include work with the Jerry Garcia Band, John Magnie of the Subdudes, Doug Kershaw, the Dirty Dozen Brass band, The Caleb Riley Funk Orchestra and C.C. Adcock, to name a few.

During his two decades in Colorado, Nezat and Thornton had gone through several bands of their own, with Nezat on drums and Thornton doing songwriting and frontman duties. Thornton's switch to bass has forced the songwriter to do a little woodshedding to get those chops back up.

"Before this, I'd pick up a guitar when I was writing," he said, "but I hadn't really played bass in 20 years. I just picked it up and started playing."

Still, the musical bond in the rhythm section is strong, and the pulse of the beat solid.

"It was chance that we were able to find both of them at the right time," Meaux said. "It was just one of those things."
Grounded in reality

For Meaux, the Mercy Brothers ride has been surprisingly easy so far.

"It took 14 years for me to get the Bluerunners into Festivals Acadiens," he said. "Mercy Brothers got there in 14 months."

Even with the successes, the growing following and a debut record under the belt there's a ways to go for the band. For Theriot, it's just a joy to be playing the music in the same vein he was inspired by so long ago.

"When you look at this band, do you realize that each of us has at least 20 years of experience playing?," Theriot asked. "That's a rarity."

According to the self-taught Kaplanite who did cruise ship piano lounge gigs at one point, even a heavy schedule is worth the experience of sharing the music with others.

"The best compliment someone can give me when I walk of the stage is, 'Man, you looked like you were having a ball up there!'" Theriot laughed. "That just makes it for me."

Sekhani, too, is smiling much more easily as the band prepares to relaunch itself on a mission to convert the uninitiated.

"There's some good things coming up," Sekhani said. "Timing is everything, especially in music. You just do the things you do, and hopefully the time is ready for what you do, and hopefully you are ready Freddie to do what you need to do."

Amen, brother, amen! - The Times of Acadiana

"Mercy, Mercy"

Formed in Lafayette in September, The Mercy Brothers came to be when Bluerunner Mark Meaux teamed up with Kevin Sekhani, who’d spent two decades in Austin following his musical muse.

“When Mark Meaux and I first got together about doing a group, we were talking about doing a hillbilly gospel thing,” says Sekhani. “At first, I envisioned we’d be standing around a microphone with a standup bass, maybe a fiddle or a banjo, and then do hillbilly, spiritual music.”

But that concept changed a little when the boys in the band — Garland Theriot, piano; Cal Stevenson, bass; and Greg Walls, drums — hooked up with Meaux (lead guitar/vocals) and Sekhani (rhythm guitar/vocals). Son Volt’s Andrew Duplantis joins the band from time to time.

“It kind of added its own thing,” says Sekhani. “It still had that classic country sound. It also had that Hank Williams country sound. It had a rollicking gospel thing when we added the piano in there.”

So instead of trying to follow the original formula verbatim, the guys went with what they had, “which has been described as a rockabilly, gospel kind of thing because it’s real high energy,” Sekhani says. “As we started developing the sound, we were really fascinated by the energy of those tent revivals.

“So we just started writing songs to fit that kind of thing, and the songs just started to come out,” he says.
And to complement the sound, the band dresses the part, too; string ties, Stetsons, Bowlers, cowboy boots.
“We look at it like it’s got that energy, that vibe to it,” says Sekhani. “We want to dress nice for the folks.”

Songs written by Meaux and Sekhani will fill the band’s first release, slated to hit the streets prior to Festival International. Producer Ivan Klisanin was at the helm in the studio.

“We’re pretty much done with the mix, we’re going to have to tweak a couple of things as soon as possible,” Sekhani says. “We’re hoping we’ll have it out a little bit before Festival. It would be a good time to have the album out.”

Speaking of Festival, The Mercy Brothers have a date at Scène Chevron Héritage, Saturday, April 28.
“We love Festival — what a time to be around here — and to be invited to play is a great honor,” he adds.

Festival is just one of the high profile events the band is playing. Already, the brothers have played Lafayette’s Downtown Alive! and Austin’s renowned Continental Club. The Mercy Brothers have a few parties booked for the South by Southwest music showcase in March.

Original material just started coming, and before you know it, we had an album full of songs that fit the band perfectly.
— Kevin Sekhani

“Being from Lafayette and living in Austin as long as I did,” he says, “I feel like I’ve got two nice home bases, you know?”

Upon Sekhani’s return to his first home base, he landed some solo gigs behind his 2009 release Sumner Street and also formed the band Sam Rey and the Totem Two. However, once he and Meaux put their heads together, the focus was diverted to The Mercy Brothers.

“We were talking about what kind of fun thing we can do together,” Sekhani says. “We were just thinking of the songs that we really, really enjoy but we never really played — things we’ve always enjoyed but never had bands that played that kind of thing.”

A band, say, that played songs like old spirituals.
Photo by Dwayne Fatheree/

“And it just developed from there,” says Sekhani. “Original material just started coming, and before you know it, we had an album full of songs that fit the band perfectly.” Sekhani says he and Meaux “put our collective heads together to see what kind of fun, exciting musical thing we could try that we’ve never tried before.”

In the process of the challenge to do something different, the two found it all came to them rather easily. It was a déjà vu kind of experience.

“I get the feeling that all the stuff that we’ve heard growing up, we retained that,” Sekhani says. “We understood that music, and it was exciting to listen to. We all enjoyed listening to it. And it’s been exciting to write it and to play it.”

Hear two tracks from the band’s upcoming release at and an additional track on its Facebook page.

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Holy Ghost Power!



The Mercy Brothers are a hillbilly gospel outfit dreamed up by Kevin Sekhani and Mark Meaux of the Bluerunners along with founding keyboardist Garland Theriot. The Mercy Brothers were born to bring audiences the good news by way of songs of faith and devotion, love and despair, singing songs of the spirit from both sides. A Holy Ghost explosion! Rounding out the Mercy Brothers lineup are the likes of Matt Thornton, Dave Nezat and Andrew Duplantis.

The Mercy Brothers debut release Holy Ghost Power! was recorded with the fantastic rhythm section of Cal Stevenson and Greg Walls.