12 songs – 45 minutes
Formed in southeastern France in 1995 by singer, songwriter and guitarist Jean Paul Avellaneda, the power trio Mercy have established a foothold on both sides of the Atlantic with their own version of swamp blues.
Avellaneda may be familiar to American audiences, having toured extensively with Commander Cody harmonica player Billy C. Farlow. The pair collaborated on the positively reviewed “Alabama Swamp Stomp” two years ago after Avellaneda and Mercy had released two previous CDs, “Tribute To Slim Harpo” in 2001 and “Magic,” an album of originals, three years later.
Jean Paul’s joined here by bandmates Romauld Lo-Pinto on drums and Bruno Quinonero on bass guitar. The trio have toured the world and served as opening act for a diverse list of first-tier musicians, including B.B. King, Jimmy Johnson, Robben Ford and reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff.
Jean Paul’s son Stephane, who’s the drummer in Ana Popovic’s touring band, and bassist Sebastien Antonelli also make guest appearances on this disc. Sebastien and French blues favorite Leadfoot Rivet wrote most of the new material, the origin of which came about as result of a trip that Jean Paul made to the Mississippi bayou with Farlow in 2013.
The band drives steadily from one song to another and leaves the station in a rush with the title cut, “Voodoo Boogie Train,” as Jean Paul’s slide guitar with heavy reverb plays atop a syncopated shuffle. The ride leads straight to hell with the singer in pursuit of someone who’s done him wrong. “Atchafalaya Bridge” recounts a trip from Baton Rouge to Lafayette at a similar pace to the song that precedes it but as it delivers lyrics rich with images of the South Mississippi countryside.
The band gets melodic and funky with “A Desperate Man,” the tale of someone who’s lost his job after his company moved the work overseas. “The Beast In Me” paints the subject as a pleasant man, but warns not to take the good guy for granted because the monster’s always lirking inside with an eye out for anyone causing him harm. The mood brightens for “Down The Bayou,” where the singer plans to rendezvous with a lover. It allows Jean Paul space to demonstrate his talent at single-note picking. The girl must be either extremely hot or big trouble because the next song, “When We Go Downtown,” relates that every time she gets dolled up and hits the bright lights, trouble ensues.
Next up, the pace changes dramatically for “You Got Another Lover,” the first slow blues on the disc. It’s a real burner. The tempo remains cool for “Cruel & Busy Blues” before the band kicks into high gear for “In Springtime,” an anthem to romance and new beginnings. It’s the sweetest, happiest song on the disc. The autobiographical “I’m The Guitar Man,” rapid-fire “Don’t Cry For Mercy” and “Summer On The Elk River,” a bayou-tinged instrumental, finish the set.
Voodoo Boogie Train is available through iTunes and Amazon. Jean Paul Avellaneda’s guitar work is solid throughout, ranging from powerful and haunting to sweet, and his vocals are solid, albeit delivered in English with a touch of an accent, which can be easily excused. His rhythm section keeps the train firmly on the tracks throughout. If you prefer power blues trios, this one’s right for you.