- 04 Dec 20
It began with a Mary Stokes Band rehearsal, which turned into a full-blown session that had a thoroughly authentic live blues feel. What better antidote to the absence of live music then, than a superb as-live album, titled Comin' Home?
The Mary Stokes Band have just released a brand new CD of as-live material, Comin' Home. And it's a cracking good listen, in a year when great live music has been especially hard to come by!
The 13-track record was recorded mainly in Displace Studios by Tom Lee and Darren Roe and is produced by Pete Holidai at Pilgrim Sound Studio and mastered by Joe Chester. The title track, Comin' Home, is an original, written by Mary Stokes and Brian Palm. The record can be purchased on Bandcamp.
"In preparation for an upcoming Dublin gig, we rehearsed in Displace Studios on the evening of April 11, 2019,” Mary Stokes explains. "We gathered together on the studio floor, just as we would on stage, and ran through some of the songs from our set. It was a lively rehearsal, and it was all recorded upstairs in the control room by engineers Tom Lee and Darren Roe.
"We really enjoyed ourselves, and felt that the recordings really captured the energy and dynamics of a live gig. Comin' Home is the result!”
The germ of a very good idea had indeed been planted. At the ensuing gig on Whelan’s main stage, Shobsy O’Brien of State Lights joined the band on stage as guest vocalist, duetting with Mary. Those collaborations are also included on the album.
"Coincidentally," Mary recalls, "that was our first recording session with the remarkable guitarist Sarah Michelle, who had just joined the band. Since that night, we have developed a strong friendship and an exceptional working relationship. Sarah's creative musical virtuosity, commitment and genuine feel for the blues is remarkable.”
Lockdown having done its grisly work in preventing bands from gigging throughout 2020, the idea of a live album based on those sessions seems like the perfect antidote.
"In combination with our kicking rhythm section of bassist Chris Byrne and drummer Robbie Barrett, and augmented by Dermot Stokes on Piano and Brian Palm on Harmonica, this record offers a snapshot of a formidable blues band in full flight."
Among the tracks on Comin' Home is a new version of Bessie Smith’s ‘At the Christmas Ball’ (which Mary had previously released as a single), this time with the full band in tow, beautifully capturing a nostalgic, festive feel. To the fore in all of these recordings are Mary’s passionate and expressive vocals delivering the blues with the power and conviction for which she and her band are widely known.
"The brief for producer Pete Holidai was to mix the songs in a way that would maintain the authenticity and raw excitement of a blistering live show,” Mary reflects. “I think he has done us proud, so feel free to turn it up good and loud!"
Comin' Home is out now.