MRCY delivers a star-making, soul-stirring NON-COMM set - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

MRCY’s appearance at the final night of NON-COMM arrived with an aura of mystery and palpable excitement. The group had released just three songs (starting earlier this year) and is slated to drop their debut project, Volume 1, on May 10th – just a few hours after their set concluded. This was the group’s first ever U.S. performance and it was an undeniably special experience: a star-making, soul-stirring event.

Singer Kojo Degraft-Johnson and bassist/producer Barney Lister front MRCY; neither artist is new to big stages, however, and their varied artistic backgrounds create the group’s fresh yet familiar sound. Degraft-Johnson grew up singing in church but more recently collaborated with modern R&B songstress Cleo Sol and the brilliant rapper Little Simz. Lister has produced for the contemporary soul singers Olivia Dean and Celeste; he’s also earned an award for his work with the great Nigerian singer Obongjayar.

You can hear the group’s eclectic backgrounds in the music of MRCY, which coalesces decades of soul music into a moving modern mixture. They kicked off their all-too-brief set with “R.L.M,” an instant blast of bluesy grandeur. The recorded version showcases Lister’s skills as a sonic architect, supplying the track with a cinematic sheen, yet it somehow sounded even better live at World Cafe Live. A lot of the band’s power stems from Degraft-Johnson; it was instantly obvious we were watching a future star. His brief, appreciative comments and all-black outfit were remarkably understated, yet his voice is anything but. His commanding range as a vocalist was astounding to witness, lifting up audiences with a falsetto that seemed to almost levitate.

MRCY continued their set with “Flowers In Mourning,” propelled by a danceable Afrobeat-influenced groove. Using a shaker, Degraft-Johnson further encouraged the groovy vibe created by his backing band. Next up was “Lorelei,” a true encapsulation of the band’s sound. This is grand and solemn soul music with some of the retro flair of modern favorites like Thee Sacred Souls, Sault, and Durand Jones & The Indications. Degraft-Johnson traded shaker for tambourine just in time for the group’s final song: “Days Like Us.” The track has the poignant punch of the great Motown classics. In the final moments of the set, MRCY took the audience to church with a thrilling instrumental finale. It must be noted that while MRCY is marketed as a duo, all the performers onstage were truly excellent. The instrumentalists playing keys, guitar, and drums flexed their skills throughout and stayed locked in at all times.

MRCY is at the beginning of their musical journey and it’s one you will not want to miss. Fresh off the release of their debut project, the group promises more volumes of music in the near future. After a run of international dates opening for Black Pumas, the group has sold out The Lower Third in London and has added an extra date at the city’s Jazz Cafe to meet popular demand. Fans can eagerly await announcements for more American performances, while reveling in the power of the group’s debut.

  • R.L.M.
  • Flowers In Mourning
  • Lorelei
  • Days Like This
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