Mercy Creek® Reviews & Quotes

Review of Back Home by Paul Shugue May 2017 “Out of the Box” 89.5 FM WHRO/WHRV.

  “Mercy Creek is a duo whose music sounds much bigger than you’d expect from just two people. They are based in the Northern Neck of Virginia and have been recording since 1999. “Back home” is their seventh studio album and begs the question: why doesn’t the whole world know about them yet?

  Vocalist and guitarist, Cheryl Nystrom and drummer Jim Ball sealed their partnership by getting married while working on this album and perhaps because of taking that plunge, the songs are more confident, more varied and more explosive than any of their other albums.  

  They have reunited with their long-time producer Paul Mahern who has worked with Over the Rhine among others. Ball’s jazz-inspired percussion is perfectly matched to Nystrom’s earthy vocals and there’s some great electric guitar fills from David England.

  Mercy Creek’s songs have an instantly familiar quality to them owing to great melody, vocal arrangements and timelessness. In an effort to describe themselves over the years they’ve used terms like “aggressive folk rock” and “Edgy Earth Music” but the reality is all comparisons fail to capture their uniqueness.” 
Listen to Paul’s review at

The Daily Press  July 7, 2017  by Natalie Joseph

Making money in the music industry is a tough go.  Mercy Creek, a duo based out of Virginia’s Northern Neck that is popular across the Peninsula, have it down.  Since forming in 1998, Cheryl Nystrom and Jim Ball have released seven albums, including their most recent, “Back Home.”  Every three years, Mercy Creek aims to release an album that allows the duo to focus on touring and saving up.  Despite the ups and downs and the financial uncertainty of the business, the pair say they are living a dream. 
Nystrom and Ball are not only bandmates, but also husband and wife. They married in 2015 and spend most of their time touring in Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina and Maryland.  “We’ve always been a couple and always been together playing as musicians,” Ball said. “It has always been our goal to play full time and to be together and stay together for the rest of our lives.” 
He said Mercy Creek plays about 200 shows each year. Their van has 460,000 miles since they bought it new in 2006.  While on the road, the couple writes music and tests it out with audiences.  “We often will write them (songs) and try them out at a show for the first time,” Nystrom said. “That’s the way to do it because you get a real response from people that way.”

Mercy Creek is currently on the road, playing about four to five shows a week during the summer, said Nystrom, who also acts as booking manager.  Before the season starts, she reaches out to venues on the East Coast to set a tour schedule. Summer is the busiest.  The couple is using their summer shows to promote “Back Home,” which was released in May.  “Back Home” is Ball and Nystrom’s first album since tying the knot. They believe it is their most confident and experimental to date.  Nystrom is the group’s vocalist and guitarist, while Ball plays the drums. The album was produced with Paul Mahern and includes 12 tracks that focus on love, home and comfort.  “We feel like this album is our best album,” Ball said. “We are excited to have a lot of shows right now coming up.”  


- "Mercy Creek plays new timeless music for the new hard times we’re all facing. Uplifting and smart Americana from one of Virginia’s best bands!" Paul Shugrue "Out of the Box" WHRV-FM Norfolk, Va.

- "Another Place to Start" "With a name like Mercy Creek you might expect bluegrass, and while there’s a banjo and jaw harp on the light hearted "Green Beans," this is definitely not twangy mountain music. Cheryl Nystrom holds it down on her hooky rhythmic acoustic guitar while Jim Ball keeps it straight with tasty percussion. They co-wrote all of the songs, Cheryl’s supple voice carrying the accessible lyrics and singable melodies. Most of the songs fall into the folk-rock or Americana category with some leaning heavily in another direction, like the blues-inspired 'Cost of Living', a bitter tune about a guy who’s played the fool for 'Chasing all those pretty girls.' Very enjoyable album. "

  - Jamie Anderson - 

- “Mercy Creek represent a new sound in folk music that instantly grabs your ear and makes you want more. Their sound is infectious.. with Jim’s distinct drumming and Cheryl’s powerful accompanying lyrics. They were instant favorites of my listeners. Their latest release “Another Place to Start” is one of my top picks." Barry Graham Host “Acoustic Highway” WHRV-FM 


  Singer and Musician Magazine "Bonfire of Vanities"

  Have Mercy-Mercy Creek can rock! The group is so overflowing with creative, boundless musical energy that for its fourth release, "Bonfire of Vanities," they had to do a double-disc. The two-disc set contains the first recording ever of Mercy Creek as just a two-piece, in addition to a fresh studio album with ten new tracks, including "Born to Rock," "Ready or Not," "Turn to Rain" and "Summer." The fully produced disc was recorded by Paul Mahern, known for his work with greats like Iggy Pop, John Mellencamp, Juliana Hatfield and others. The live disc was recorded last July at Echo Park Studios and includes favorites like "Match and a Conversation," "Sparked Fire," "Shadow Dance" and more. For those unfamiliar with Mercy Creek, the two-piece group (singer/guitarist Cheryl Nystrom and drummer Jim Ball) is one of the leaders of an aggressive folk rock movement and have been coined "The White Stripes of Americana." Their sound blends modern folk with pop, rock, blues and even bluegrass. Nystrom's vocals are raw, uninhibited, intense and sensual. Mercy Creek was definitely "Born to Rock." 
 A Taste Of Triple A

  If there is such a thing as perfect folk-rock music, then Mercy Creek comes as close as possible to creating it. Their songs are authentically rootsy without losing that ever-elusive mainstream appeal. -Jim Nelson

 The Washington Examiner

  Virginia duo Mercy Creek plays "aggressive folk rock", and if that is the chosen label, I commend them, because I wouldn't be so willing to classify. I agree in theory, but with all they offer, I think Mercy Creek can also be called liars by omission. Vocalist-guitarist Cheryl Nystrom is an undeniable star, with a strong expressive voice that swoops around pop choruses and haunts the verses in between, like a burnished and coppery Beth Orton. Drummer Jim Ball knows when to hit it and when to quit it, letting the songs ride on Nystrom's wave.


City Beat  Sound Advice

  Offering the kind of grounded Earth Pop that artists like Damien Rice, Sixpence None the Richer and Cincinnati's own Over the Rhine have used to cultivate huge cult followings, the duo Mercy Creek live their lives on the road (although they are officially headquartered in Virginia). Proudly independent, the twosome of Cheryl Nystrom (guitar/vocals) and Jim Ball (percussion) writes while traveling, which perhaps informs their uniquely organic sound.

  But a better clue into their acoustic-based Folk Pop's origins could be found in Nystrom's upbringing. The singer began writing songs at 12, disconnected from the popular music of her day. Mercy Creek's music has the kind of timelessness that suggests Nystrom was probably listening to Joni Mitchell, Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield, Janis Joplin and even Woodstock vet Melanie over whatever Top 40 radio was spewing back then. It's her voice that is the heart of Mercy Creek's placid sound, as she radiates the kind of soulfulness that defies space and time.

  Ball's expansive, accomplished drumming approach (partly the result of his MacGyver-ed set-up, which involves an African djembe, brushes and duct tape) makes that overwrought music critic cliché "They don't sound like just two people" a reality when it comes to live shows.

  On their third self-released album, Storm Has Blown Over (produced by Bloomington-based Paul Mahern, who has worked with likeminded artists including Lisa Germano and the aforementioned OTR), the duo's tranquil songs (which do "rock out" on occasion, though in a decidedly "Adult Contemporary" way) are nicely augmented by keys, bass, violin and electric guitar. But it's evident that Nystrom's sensual vocal presence and Ball's resonant drum work is at the core of their songs' potency. (Mike Breen)

The Coast 

 Since 1999, Mercy Creek has been churning out strikingly good "aggressive folk rock" that falls somewhere between the old school hybrid hatched by Joni Mitchell and the modern fusion of the Dave Mathews Band. With 10 songs on("Storm Has Blown Over") , the disk teams with passion, wonder, and joy. Nystrom's voice, a wonderful instrument capable of a wide range of tones and textures, is right up front. Ball adds fascinating rhythms and Nystrom plucks, picks, and strums stringed instruments with wild abondon, giving several of the songs a down home bluegrass sound. The album is already getting airplay on XM Satalite Radio, and dozens of non-commercial Triple-A stations. It may be the ticket to the next level, which has been too long in coming for a band this good

Music Monthly - "Dirty Water"

  It was bound to happen sooner or later. Just about every singers trip has been emulated by the up-and-comers......except Sheryl Crow. Until now, that is. Where Mercy Creek deviates from the formula is in the design. Rather than going for Crow's vocal styling, Mercy Creek chanteuse Cheryl Nystrom confidently relies on her own unique voice; it's the songwritng and earthy productions value which bears the Crow stamp. Wide-open, ambient drums, country tinged Fender twangin' and a strong acoustic foundation are the core of "Dirty Water's" 12 songs. .........."Dirty Water's" organic delivery and production guarantees that this CD will not sound dated in 5 year's time. Good taste never goes out of style.

 The Richmond Times Dispatch

  On 'Dirty Water' Mercy Creek continues to shape their original style by adding more aggressive melodies, and their experiences give way to a sediment of solid, meaningful lyrics with depth. This approach has led to the creation of songs with as much lyrical attitude as Ani DiFranco, and as much soulful urgency as Tori Amos. Nystrom's voice is melodic and lilting, capable of hitting alomost every pitch, adding color to every song. If Mercy Creek's songs were described as paintings, they would be marked by sultry violet hues and fiery orange sparks

The Washington Times

  Miss Nystrom's voice sounds a bit like those of Sarah McLahghlan and Natalie Merchant, with a more bluesy, organic feel.

Music Monthly March

  Mercy Creek is simply one of the best things out there.

9X Magazine

...their rootsy sound is a bit more eclectic moving from a more modern Ani Di Franco worldbeat folk, to Joni Mitchell's jazzier style, to new wave rock ala Pretenders. Cheryl's vocal range soars on high at times, and then plummets into bluesy growls at others, but despite the ambitious notes she goes for, she never seems to waver from accurate pitch.


The Music Outlook  By G. Michael


  One of the joys of live music is “discovering” a band that grabs your attention and won’t let go. Mercy Creek has it. Based in Virginia, this acoustic duo recently played two benefits for Music Outlook in Ithaca and Cortland. From the opening notes, drummer Jim Ball surrounded singer and guitarist Cheryl Nystrom with swirling, pulsating rhythm. His playing is trance-like at times. For her part, Cheryl played and sang beautifully to provide the audience with a rich, full, emotional music experience. Her voice is near perfection, and mature well beyond her years. They project passion, and a love for their music. Playing as a duo for 1½ years, they write most of their own material but occasionally do covers. Originally meeting as members of a 7 piece band, they feel “very lucky to be able to do this. We make a living playing and will go anywhere to do it”, said Jim. When asked how they write their material, Cheryl replied, “We use our time while driving. Usually Jim will start with a rhythm, the melody begins to take shape, and the songs write themselves.” They have a self produced CD titled The Name of the Record is Mercy Creek. Cover art, and disks are individually hand painted, no two alike. Together they commented, “We put everything on the line for our music. We love coming to Central NY to play. People around here don’t realize what a great live music scene there is here, compared to other areas of the country. We’ll come back.” Make sure you don’t miss them when they do.


The Connection by D.M.Tynan

  Hard to believe that a band consisting of only two members can deliver a performance that makes a symphony hall of a small tavern, but such is the power of Mercy Creek’s vocalist and guitarist, Cheryl Nystrom and percussionist Jim Ball. There is great emotional depth in Nystrom's voice and lyrics, a catalyst that involves listeners personally with the band’s music. Firm believers in keeping their art pure, not chasing record labels and not subjecting it to the whims of marketing and PR, Nystrom and Ball are determined to sell themselves purely on the basis of their music. “We’ve been doing it all our own,” says Nystrom, proudly pointing out the one of kind hand painted CD cases, “(we’re) fiercely independent.”

  The style of, “the name of the record is mercy creek” teasingly wavers just beyond definition, touching upon country, blues, disco and folk, ultimately forming something all it’s own. Nystrom’s voice can best be compared to Kate Bush, not so much in style, but in the astonishing range of vocal ability and the hypnotic force with which the songs are delivered. That ability is subtly demonstrated in “Lost Love Hearts,” a sorrowful Celtic-style sailor ballad that Nystrom spins out in a delicate croon. The ferocity of that voice can still be heard lurking behind the gentleness, barely splitting through to accent some lines with the bare suggestion of wailing. “Almost,” one of the tunes played at Hopsfrog, communicates as well in the studio version, as the live. Nystrom’s lilting voice empathizes with the lyric’s cry against being forced into an image that doesn’t fit,

“Everything you ever wanted/All that you desire to be/Everything you ever wanted/You have molded into me.” In contrast is the quiet joy of , “Laughter in the Rain,” a song where love saves and heals, “You smiled at me and gave me tranquility/You pulled me out of my pain.” An entirely different mood is on the singer in “Drawn To The Fire,” which begins with a mesmerizing thumping, Nystrom’s singing seems to thump too, a persuasive, tribal growl, “Drawn to the fire?/I once said to those little boys/You’re gonna taste those burning lights.” The bluesy sound of “Match and a Conversation,” suits the tune’s grim barfly story, “Drinking rum down to the bottom/In these seven years gone by/It’s just another day, just another night/It’s just another low down high.” Departing yet again from any nameable style, the eerie, “Shadow Dance” tauntingly refuses to quite be defined as disco.


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