Album Review: Bex Marshall – Fortuna

Review by Peter Coates –


Released – 1st March 2024
Dixie Frog Records

The long-awaited studio album from Bex Marshall, Fortuna, is a ten-track blues tapestry that bulges to the edges with addictive hooks and story lines. Bex is a writer of notability, she pushes the boundaries of blues and weaves the genre in and out of blues, funk, rock, and Americana.

Bex steps forward with this record as a leading female guitarist, producing her powerful, self-penned album alongside Nick Hunt who also engineered and mastered the record, and blazing the blues guitar trail with soaring lead lines, technical ragtime, and ballsy slide playing.

Born in Devon, with some of her formative years in Australia and now based in North London, what you get from Bex is in fact a glorious amalgam of high-energy blues, soul and funk-rock, with a dash of gospel and roots in the vocals in particular, and some terrific focus on her steel-top resonator and slide guitar work.

It’s been more than ten years since her last release, The House Of Mercy, and during this time, Bex has experienced a busy touring schedule, independently breaking into several international markets, but now she is back in the saddle, with a bunch of UK and European dates in the diary, and the new album being released.

The first three tracks on the album give us a fabulous spread of the goods on offer – with the rollicking piano-driven blues rock of Preaching To The Choir featuring some initially understated guitar licks behind the verse, which steadily build up in intensity, while Shola Adegoroye provides some pure gospel backing vocals, which contract with the raspy drawl of Bex lead vocals.  A cover of Buddy & Julie Miller’s Dirty Water gives us a speakeasy vibe of sassy, sultry Tina Tuner vocals over Toby Baker’s electric piano before the gritty lead guitar kicks in, and Bex gives us a great solo over a backing infused with Santana-like latin percussion from Danny Bryan.  

The first single of the album I Can’t Look You In The Eye is a slide guitar powerhouse from Bex, with Scott Coopwood (The Bobalows) guesting on the solo, and contributing to the heavy and harmonious guitar melodies, and is a real Delta-blues rocker driven by the bassline of the late great “Red Bass” (Robert Eugene Daniels) that sees Bex deliver a solid punch on the vocals.

The new single, 5AM, is an atmospheric guitar and electric piano double-act, with Bex again showing her vocal prowess and range, and a solo Gary Moore would have been proud of.  A complete contrast in the frenetic rockabilly beat and slide-guitar of Jungle which just sees a smile spread all over your body.  The band keep it tight and low-key, which means this one might get very loose and loud onstage, and the slide solo is so expressive, before it leads into some bar-room honky-tonk piano, and then swaps licks through the outro chorus.

Table For One sees some great harmony vocals over a funky bass-led groove and some tight accents on a real retro-sounding guitar/amp combo, with tongue-in-cheek (literally) lyrics about the stigma of a woman eating alone.  There is a nice piano solo mid-song, before the interplay of jazzy / blues lead guitar breaks over the final verse and chorus, and the meandering lead guitar lines of the outro.   The album title-track, Fortuna, is an incendiary instrumental workout powered along by Richie Stevens (Tina Turner, George Clinton) on the drums, alongside Red Bass, and they allow Bex the freedom to really express herself with some dextrous lead guitar work, which sits really well over the somewhat chaotic backing track. 

A 12-bar Texas blues rocker reminiscent of old-school ZZ Top or Moody/Marsden era-Whitesnake is up next in Lay Down And Die, this one will be an absolute belter live, with the heavy accents mid-chorus, the pulsating underlying riff, and the searing lead breaks and solo.  There is a clavinet prominent in the rootsy Scrapyard Dog, featuring the Ozark resonator in this ragtime workover, and some more of the multi-layered vocals from Bex.  The bassline roams widely around the melody while the drums just about hold the beat with a clever degree of looseness, and the more you listen, the more guitars you hear.

The album closes too soon with When It’s Gone, which has a slight 1970’s pop rock vibe, but is given an overdose of harmonies from pedal-steel virtuoso BJ Cole this time on Dobro, as well as the strings and keyboards that add lush layers of melody to the track.  

It may have been 12 years since the last Bex Marshall record, but clearly good things come to those who wait, and we are privileged to have this collection, put together with some high-quality musicians, grace our turntables at last.  If you get the chance to see Bex and the band out on tour round the UK in March, don’t miss it.  I live in the vain hope that she might add a few dates in early April in amongst her solo European dates, but may have to wait until my next trip to the UK for this!


Mon 26 Feb – Midnight Special Blues Club, Camberley UK BAND
Sat 9 March – St Marys Sessions, Dorking UK BAND
Wed 13 March – Clutha, Glasgow BAND
Friday 15 March – Howlin Wolf, Glasgow BAND
Mon 18 March – Plaquemine Lock Solo
Tues 19 March – The Wrotham Arms, Broadstairs Kent UK BAND
Sun 8 Sept – Darlington R n B Festival BAND
Sat 13 Sept – Blues at the Bay Stockton on Tees UK BAND

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