released October 9, 2011
Produced by Trip Barriger and Duncan Cherry
Recorded at Skull Alley and Treehouse Audio
Cover Illustration by Don Pendleton/Elephont.com
Layout by Ryan Patterson
Tender Mercy is Mark Kramer/nylons,vocal
Featuring Mike Seymour/piano
Phil Olympia and Dunkenstein Records
Dave Manning/Lisa Saum
The Kramer Family(s)
Matthew Landan/Derby City Espresso
Matt Kinder/The Parade Schedule
Peter Berkowitz/Sunergos Coffee
The cast and crew of Ear X-Tacy Records
Billy Catfish/The South Gate House
Kyle Melton/South Park Tavern
Jonathan Glen Wood/Andrew Iafrate
Jon Evans/Evans Collective
Bunny Day and the Mercy Buckets
Meg Bowden/Sarabande Press
The Dandy Lion
The Mack/Jeff Shelton
Blue Dog Bakery
"Tender Mercy’s The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell is an exploratory and experimental record, unlike anything I’ve recently laid ears on. Free of rock cynicism or pompous overproduction, the record emerges as an incredibly personal portrait of former Dayton musician, singer Mark Kramer. Tender Mercy’s “Shame” is both a delicate and fractured song. Kramer’s bare bones delivery is supplemented by resonant piano notes and bleeding guitar; each its own skeletal structure that combines in striking and honest ways. Shadowy and enigmatic, like a figure rocking on the porch during a late night rainstorm, tracks “Prize” and “Expect” are both delicate offerings that unfold slowly and deliberately. Though I wouldn’t peg The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell as alt-country or folk, Tender Mercy’s strength lies is an understated and honest offering that burns with soulfulness and innocence. No track exhibits this phenomenon more than “Drive On,” which is carefully arranged to accent Kramer’s dramatic bleating. If you’re looking for a bloated and indulgent rock record, this isn’t it. Minimalist and heartbreaking? This is your jam. "
(Tim Anderl/Dayton City Paper-Youindie.com)
"Tender Mercy clings as close to the bone of these songs as can be, keeping the instrumentation sparse. The sounds can seem solemn, led by the soft plucking of a guitar. Mark sings comfortably in a warm voice. Despite being only two instruments and voice, the sound can be a lush, nice moodiness. This is singer-songwriter music as concentrated as it can get.
Most of the tunes are of a slower-tempo, and follow the trail unhurriedly. I definitely appreciate music as stripped down as this; there's no delineation with a tricky bell-mare moment. These are songs presented as songs, clinging to the individuality of the lyrics and melodies. I'm reminded of seeing Mark Kozelek's material performed live with simply two guitars.
Hey, I'm not gonna lie; it's been a rainy Spring day as I've typing up this album, and its been the perfect minimalist soundtrack for it. This a record with a lot of color hidden within its skeleton. "Drive On" is one of the nicest songs I've listened to in a while."
Tender Mercy - The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell
"This week's album is not new, but was recently introduced to me. My ears have been thankful ever since. Tender Mercy is the brainchild of Mark Kramer and the power that springs from the record is hard to ignore. The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell is an album that, at first listen, calls comparisons to the band, Low. It's subtle, but powerful in the way that each track takes hold of the listener. I made the mistake of listening to this album while working, so I didn't comprehend the strength that's hidden in each song. Once I played the album on my commute home, I noticed that I had a hard time focusing on the outstanding musicianship and the road ahead. The album demands full attention.
Minimalist guitar and piano blanket the record and I felt comforted by each note. There is no overproduction on this album and that fact enhances the sound immensely. The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell has an undeniable magnetism that I still haven't been able to dissect. Each aspect of the album is amazing and I highly recommend listening to the album without any distractions to understand exactly what I'm talking about. But if you are playing this record in a social setting, don't be surprised if the idle chatter surrounding the room dies down and is replaced by the overwhelming beauty of Tender Mercy. My jaw has only just recently ascended from its downward position."
The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell
Another one filed away in the day-late-and-a-dollar-short, Tender Mercy's "The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell" is an album long overdue for some Never Nervous attention, one so far overdue that I'm not certain if I should title this as a "Back In The Day" feature, or as just a music review. Essentially the one-man project of the wonderful and kind Mark Kramer and whoever is available to accompany him on piano, this album happens to feature the incomparable Mike Seymour, who I have been and currently am in a band with. That this was released by Dunkenstein Records, the local label run by the owner of this very blog, presents itself as another possible point of contention, and one worth noting if only to illustrate my own personal ties to this, and how those ties may influence my judgment. So in full disclosure, I have more than a passing familiarity with all involved, but I would have written this regardless.
Having once attempted to commit an earlier iteration of Tender Mercy to tape, I can attest at how very painfully stark an atmosphere that Kramer induces. Tender Mercy's uncompromising simplicity and use of negative space to induce mood is simultaneously a point of fascination and supreme, well, irritation, for a lack of a better word. That each note is so carefully considered is rendered apparent on any intent listening; if you hear a sound it's there for a reason. Of course, the aforementioned irritation comes when you expect more to happen in each song. It's not that it is necessarily required, but there are what would seem to be ample opportunities for additional accompaniment. Imagine the end of the second track, "Prize," a very subtle, perhaps even distant sounding horn section, that would serve as the metaphorical prize to correspond with both the lyrics and music.
Still, it is not that additional instrumentation would improve any one song, nor is that my intended message here. Kramer's vision is obvious with even a cursory listen, that the music should serve as the most basic accompaniment to the words, that the focus is on as compact a vehicle as possible. The result is a sound that often out "slowcores" slowcore, like the band Codeine on actual codeine, or like an even lower Low. The tight melodic interplay between the classical guitar and piano is often ephemeral, as if each note floats in and out in a melancholic, if consonant, haze, cut only by Kramer's melodic voice. This is never more apparent than on "Blind," which sees the piano melody carry the song through much of it's mid section, with a sparse but perfectly timed guitar to punctuate the harmony, all mixed slightly under Kramer's singing.
Tender Mercy establishes and maintains their singular vision from the opening notes of "Shame," to the baroque melancholy of "Expect." That I had any expectation whatsoever, any longing for something more, is less a reflection of anything Kramer and company have created, and more a result of the intentness by which each song needs to be consumed, that your attention is commanded and your imagination engaged. This is the real power of Tender Mercy, if the word power could be at all employed, that its subtleties are in the sublime interplay of voice and instrument, in knowing and employing restraint. "The Road To Good Intentions Is Paved By Hell," is the sound of a quiet room while reading a good book; every sound grabs your attention, and every word is made that much more important.