Cherry Lee Mewis – Southbound Train

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

When I first picked up from my door mat the envelope containing the new Southbound Train record by Cherry Lee Mewis, I found it difficult getting past the name on the sleeve.  Was it a joke?  The name sounded very much like one of those highly irritating tribute bands I have an aversion to and I was almost expecting a handful of accurately executed versions of “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shaking Goin’ On”.  Never judge a book by the cover nor a CD by the artist’s name I always say.  I kind of stick by this otherwise I would never have heard Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, now would I?  Cherry Lee Mewis is a twenty-four-year old female singer-songwriter from North Wales with a voice that means business.  This is her second album, the first outing being Little Girl Blue from a couple of years ago.  On Southbound Train Cherry mixes eight self-penned originals with songs from another era all together such as Charlie ‘Papa’ Jackson’s “Shake That Thing”, Memphis Minnie’s “Kissing In The Dark” and Koko Taylor’s ballsy “All You Need”.  Cherry betrays her age with performances of some of the most gritty songs from places so far removed from North Wales and from a time that bears no resemblance to that of today.  I’m pleasingly reminded of early Janis Joplin or at the very least the late and much missed Jo Ann Kelly, particularly in Cherry’s handling of Memphis Minnie’s material.  Cherry’s take on Blind Willie McTell’s distinctive vocal is realised superbly well on “Oh Lord Send Me an Angel Down”, which features Max Milligan’s authoritative acoustic guitar sparring expertly with Marc Patching’s informed Dobro, more than adequately making up for Blind Willie’s distinctive 12 string.  Of Cherry’s own songs, “Time Limits” is more contemporary in feel, with a sprightly McGuinniss Flint “When I’m Dead and Gone” style mandolin rhythm, together with Cherry’s own harmonica and Mulligan’s bottleneck guitar, grounding what is essentially a pop song, with a rootsy feel.  A more sensitive side of Cherry Lee Mewis is revealed on her own ballad “Something You Can’t Have”, co-written with co-producer Max Milligan, which closes the album.  Although in this song we may have witnessed a brief moment of vulnerability, I can’t help but feel that when I do eventually get around to seeing this five-foot-nothing stick of dynamite, the stage will be alight with fire, passion and a rawness that is sadly so rare these days.