Thursday, March 7, 2024

Bex Marshall - Fortuna

A funny thing happened when I first came to listen to Fortuna – the running order of my download copy was all wrong.  This, in fact, turned out to be a good thing, because it meant my first exposure to Bex Marshall was track 4 on her latest album, ‘5AM’, an atmospheric blues ballad that she delivers with considerable style. Marshall may not be a singer in the class of her heroine Tina Turner, but she’s still expressive, and her smoky voice is perfect for the early hours heartbreak vibe of the song. And expressive is the right word for her guitar work too, from the subtle remarks that capture the mood with an undertow of organ colourings, to the fluid solo that she delivers with superb tone.  Lovely stuff – albeit in the wrong place.
In fact Fortuna is an emporium well-stocked with appealing goodies.  Sassier fare comes along
Bex Marshall - here's looking at you, girl.
Pic by Blackham Images
in the form of ‘I Can’t Look You In The Eye’ and ‘Lay Down N Die’, the former a bump’n’grind outing with some ear-catching interleaved guitar from Marshall on slide and the guesting Scott Coopwood, and the latter a grittily rocking tale of determination with a neat riff and a fizzing guitar solo to close.
There are shades of Clapton in JJ Cale mode in a couple of places.  Well, maybe.  ‘Fortuna’ itself is a brisk instrumental that provides a showcase for some entertaining Texas bluesy guitar, with extra percussion and a couple of tumbling bridges adding to the fun.  ‘Jungle’ is a bright and breezy shuffle, with a fun conversational vocal, jangling piano from Toby Baker, and some fittingly fun slide playing from Marshall.  And the closing ‘When It’s Gone’ is similarly free’n’easy, acoustically based but with added Dobro seasoning courtesy of BJ Cole to go with some suitably Spring-like acoustic soloing from Marshall.
Other favourites include the ‘Dirty Water’, with its subtle organ and slinky vocal intro, progressing to nifty, tastefully toned guitar licks counterpointing Marshall’s occasionally quivering voice, and an easy groove to underpin some expressive – there’s that word again – soloing, with some congas from Danny Bryan adding a Latin flavour to the mix.  ‘Scrapyard Dog’ may be a tad overlong, but it hits the mark too.  It's a languid underdog tale, with a delightfully woozy guitar motif, a bundle of amusing lyrical metaphors, and a sparkling guitar solo.
The opening ‘Preaching To The Choir’ is a grower, with a loose and lazy rhythm perked up by bubbling bass and a neat piano groove.  ‘Table For One’ is a relaxed, but smart and saucy statement of intent from a woman who’s happy to dine alone - all wry lyrics, hip-swaying groove and rinky-dink ivories.
Now, I’m not saying you’ll get socked in the jaw by the brilliance of Fortuna.  But I am very much saying that these songs are delivered not just with satisfying arrangements and musicianship, but with charm and a plenty engaging air of poise and balance, showing off all concerned in a good light, most certainly including Bex Marshall and her – yes, I’ll say it again - expressive singing and guitar work.  Nicely played Bex.
Fortuna is available now on Dixiefrog Records, and can be ordered here.

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