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Mercy Creek, "The Name of the Record is Mercy Creek"; Swingin' Utters, "Swingin' Utters," 

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Mercy Creek, "The Name of the Record is Mercy Creek"This Kilmarnock-based duo's independent CD captures some magical sounds. Weaving tunes that are at once light, dreamy and melodic with more direct and edgy songs, the twosome create a delightful rhythmic punch. Consisting of Cheryl Nystrom and Jim Ball, Mercy Creek began performing in 1999. Ball keeps the project energized with a percussive attack that lends itself well to both the acoustic and harder-edged styles the group incorporates. For her part, Nystrom adds acoustic guitar but really takes center stage with a powerful vocal range that immediately grabs the ear. Whether forcefully pleading her case on "Almost" or singing pure and sweet in "Laughter in the Rain," Nystrom's vocals are gorgeous, and the band has dynamics and melody to spare. What lies ahead for this hard-working duo in a business crammed with underappreciated talent is anyone's guess. But if this 10-track CD is a fair portrait, Mercy Creek deserves its shot. Mercy Creek performs at Poe's Pub, Thursday, Feb. 8 at 9 p.m. — Ames Arnold Swingin' Utters, "Swingin' Utters," (Fat Wreck Chords)
Who says street punk has to be generic? It doesn't come much more original than San Francisco's Swingin' Utters. Although the band might borrow a page from groups like The Pogues and the Stiff Little Fingers, at no time do they rip these two pioneers off (or any other band for that matter.) The latest self-titled album from the Utters is typical of just about all previous Swingin' Utters releases: fast moving and upbeat songs about everyday struggle and strife. Throw in some throaty backing choruses and the occasional folk rock number and there you have the makings of another great album. A powerful anthem about having the strength to leave a relationship that isn't working out comes in the form of "The Note." Two other songs of note are the punk-meets-country number "Another Day" and the record's closing ballad "My Glass House." — Angelo DeFranzo
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