Review by Taf Rock for MPM
Cast your mind back to Saturday 24th July 2010 if you can. I can recall exactly where I was – inside a marquee on a rugby pitch in the small Cumbrian seaside town of Maryport for what was at the time my favourite annual blues festival Maryport Blues Festival.
Booker T headlined that night. And they put in an exemplary performance at the end of a long day of blues.
Earlier in the day my attention had been drawn to a new artist to me Bex Marshall. Coming to the stage armed with an Ozark 3515 resonator guitar accompanied by an upright bassist, keyboards and drums I thought this may get interesting and so it was proven to be as Bex and her band produced a mixture of upbeat country/delta style blues, her smoky/gritty vocal reminiscent at times of Maggie Bell soon got me heading for the front of the stage where I stayed for the full set before venturing to the merch stand and buying a copy of her then current and second album Kitchen Table which had been released a couple of years previous in 2008.
It became an album I played to death in the ensuing months and grew to love the canny mix of heartbreak and humour displayed on standout tracks such as Kitchen Table, Red Light, Bad Bad Girl and Too Much Rock & Roll. I had high hopes for Bex and relished the release of future albums. It was two whole years before the follow up 2012’s House Of Mercy was released. And then …. nothing. Bex from this reviewer’s perspective seemed to vanish and totally dropped off my musical horizon.
It was therefore a pleasant surprise to receive news of the single before me today – 5am. The first release of new Bex Marshall material for nigh on twelve years. It’s been a long time coming.
This the first single to be released from her forthcoming album FORTUNA which will be available from March 1st via Dixiefrog Records.
Based around a tale of a drunken late night fight with a lover this blues based ballad serves up a sound that might have come straight out of the undiscovered books of some soulful blues legend of the past. But this brand new self composed track brings a touch of polish to that sound, Bex and her band producing a tune that is full of freshness and bang up to date.
The guitar sound is as soft and smooth as the Jack Daniels that is sipped copiously in the accompanying video for the track. A gentle guitar intro, you imagine it is indeed 5am as the accompanying keyboards courtesy of Toby Baker enter the fray. Cue that voice. As smoky and full of soulful raw emotion as I remember from that day fourteen years ago now. A wonderful bass sound providing the foundation for a track that’s as blues as it comes.
The dawn is breaking through … my heart is breaking blue.’ There’s no doubting the musical direction of this track. Bex guitar sound simply beautiful, the vocal filled with sorrow, blues at its finest.
The tracks lengthy instrumental break displays the full range of Bex skill on the guitar. Uplifting before the despair of the vocal returns for another verse. ‘I made it through the night … I don’t wanna win this fight… Smash my glass down… my bottle hits the ground’.
Despite her lack of new product Bex has been busy touring and breaking into new international markets, honing her skills as displayed on this welcome return. Bex has once again grabbed my attention with this opening salvo from FORTUNA.
I look forward to hearing the rest of the album when it arrives in a few short weeks. In the meantime I’ll just dust off 2008’s KITCHEN TABLE and refamilarise myself with the album that started off my Bex Marshall experience all those years ago in that marquee on the western shores of Cumbria.
The first single “5am,” released Friday 5 January 2024, is available to stream and buy HERE.