Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer
You know when you are just in the mood for a good YouTube session? Playing songs you know and love and enjoying music videos, sometimes discovering bands you’ve not heard before during your session as songs are suggested for you. I had a night like that years ago and stumbled across a band who simultaneously took my breath away and had me up dancing around my lounge room, a band called Wild Belle. The song was Another Girl. If you are not familiar with it, I highly recommend you stop reading this (just for a moment) and go and check it out. The song hit me in the heart for a few reasons. Firstly, the musicianship and vocals were outstanding. Secondly, the lyrics really resonated with me at that time in my life and lastly, it was just so gosh darn funky, sexy and catchy. I was singing along by the second listen. Oh and did I mention the cinematography of the music video? This song was stunning on every possible level.
Fast forward a few years and I was scoping out a record store when I stumbled across Wild Belle’s album ‘Isles’ for a ridiculous price of only $20. I snapped it up faster than you could say “does this record store know they have this priced way too low!?” and took it home and played it straight away. Since then, the album has been played many, many times and my love for the band has grown.
Recently, a press release landed in my inbox that made me smile big. Natalie Bergman (half of the brother/ sister duo that is Wild Belle) was set to release her first solo album. I just knew I had to review it. And so here I sit, earphones in (my headphones are broken, much to my dismay!) tuning in to the sweet sounds of Natalie’s gloriously strong and harmonic vocals. Now singing her own song so to speak in her solo venture. Even through my small earphones her voice soars to the sky with its depth and soul. It’s a thing of pure beauty.
Not only is this exciting because it is her first solo album, but it is also exciting as it is being released via Jack White’s Third Man Records. Jack White is another musician and talented creative whom I adore. The album itself though has a certain bitter-sweetness to it. Inspired by a devastatingly sad moment in Natalie’s life, as she was about to take the stage at Radio City Music Hall, with Wild Belle, she received news that her father and stepmother were killed by a drunk driver. Their sudden death had her asking questions that inspired the single from the album, Home At Last. The life changing loss resulted in the album as a whole.
Whilst Wild Belle features an array of genres such as rock, reggae, jazz, funk and psychedelic pop, Natalie in her solo venture also crosses over genres. The album itself is being dubbed as a gospel album. The album is full of soul and spiritual awakening soundscapes all led by the heavenly sound of Natalie’s voice. ‘Mercy’ is emotive, full of sorrow, questioning and loss, but it is somehow still uplifting and light in its entirety.
The album opens with Talk To The Lord. The track was released as a single about three months ago. “When you are scared, reach out your hand, talk to the lord…” a beautiful sentiment and a clear opening to the gospel style Natalie has taken on in this album.
Next Shine Your Light On Me continues on with that positive vibe of looking to the lord for help in times of dismay. Another single released from the album along with a gorgeous black and white 60’s/70’s inspired music video.
I Will Praise You was the first glimmer into the album. A live video was released featuring Natalie leading the way with musicians Erik Hall, Anyiah Mayfield, Mckenzie Mattere, Gretchen Steele, Elisa Latrice, Shane Grace Alle and Cedric Lemoyne harmonising and performing alongside.
I’m Going Home is followed by Home At Last. This being one of the highlights on the album for me. Natalie takes her vocal range down to her lower octaves and it reminds me of some Wild Belle songs. This song is heart wrenching in the most beautiful way. “What is my sin lord? Where is my joy? I am a motherless child, I have no father, he was my calm place, he was the northern star…”
You Make My World Go Round and Paint The Rain take us onto The Gallows. I love this one, it’s like a country blues kind of song, it’s simplistic in its delivery and yet has layers of vocals, harmonizing all wrapped in emotions. It is a perfect melding of simplicity and complexity.
Your Love Is My Shelter is followed by He Will Lift You Up Higher, which begins with cartoon-like music sounds (think a Disney style film, perhaps a scene with fairies flying around the screen) that make me think of my childhood. I wonder if this is meant this way. As this album surrounds the loss of parents and perhaps a reflection upon a childhood and happier times. This song also makes me think of the musical goddess, Kate Bush. The vocals and energy sits here. This song is perhaps my favourite from ‘Mercy’.
The album is completed by Sweet Mary and the devastatingly beautiful Last Farewell, this one telling the story almost word for word of how Natalie and her brother Elliot found out their father and step mother had left this world in human form. I find this track hard to listen to, because, being an empath, I can feel this one in the very bottom of my heart. I hurt for Natalie and Elliot when I listen to this one “the pain in my chest was blinding…” I have a lump in my throat and shivers from head to toe. This song is raw and heartfelt. This song is pure sorrow. It’s stunningly sorrowful and beautiful all at once.
Natalie is by far one of my favourite musicians and singers that I have discovered over the many moons of my passion for music. She is a light in this world and I am so grateful she has shared this personal, emotional and beautifully pieced together album of sections of her very heart and soul. I highly recommend you tune in to ‘Mercy’ just as soon as you can.
‘Mercy’ will be released via Third Man Records on May 7th. Pre-order ‘Mercy’ here
Third Man is distributed in Australia by Rocket – www.rocket.com.au
With thanks to Dave Laing Publicity + Third Man Records