If you haven’t hipped yourself to Springsteen’s guitarist Little Steven and his side gigs with his three XM radio stations, Little Steven’s Underground Garage, Coolest Songs in the world, and Outlaw Country, jump in on it now. And, for an even deeper dive, he’s got his own record label, Wicked Cool Records, where he digs deep with a stable of some of the coolest bands on the planet that you have never heard. With their debut set for Wicked Cool Records, the Dirty Gems have come up with a gem of a record with virtually no miss-steps over a tightly constructed 10 song set.
Avoid the temptation of glossing over the opener “She Likes To Party” with its Sly Stone by way of “Play That Funky Music” mojo as a one and done wonder. Sure this song is groovy, but trust us, this is only the tip of the coolness spear.
Overt genre-hopping has been been the death knell of many an album, but here, jumping from the mothership funk of the opener to the Motown worthy “I Can Still Feel It,” and be-bopping on to the Robert Palmer groove of “Can’t Give It,” the transition is as pure and smooth as a good bottle of whiskey.
Kris, as a piano player, will definitely render comparisons to early Elton. And, if after listening to “See You Again” and his spot-on terrific extended-jam reading of “Take Me To The Pilot” you don’t agree with this assessment, your Elton John fan club membership will be revoked. Bad Company By Way of REO Speedwagon makes an appearance on “I’m Your Man” and Deep Muscle Shoals vibes spring from every pore of “Don’t Turn Around.” “Tortuga” even has a Santana tinge to it.
It is not often that an album comes around that is this good that nobody has heard. Kris Rodgers and his mates deserve a wider following. Let’s make it happen.
Often times, a very good way to expose yourself to new artists is to select a band that you like, find out who produced a particular record that you enjoy and follow it through down the rabbit hole of great music. In this case, with Richard Swift, there is a lot to enjoy. Not only was Swift the bass player for The Black Keys and the drummer for Dan Auerbach’s side piece band The Arcs, he also twirled the knobs as producer for Foxygen, Kevin Morby, and Damien Jurado, all great acts that we have been following over the last couple of years.
In addition to his production work, Richard put out a series of solo records that never really resonated with the mainstream although they were all nuanced gems with the best of the lot, Dressed Up For The Letdown, a stone cold masterpiece. Released in 2007, the record features stellar songwriting that would Do Randy Newman Proud, Pop sensibilities that would make Paul McCartney envious, and a production effort worthy of Burt Bacharach. Full of self-deprecating songs including the title track along with “P.S. It All Falls Down,” and “The Songs of National Freedom” the record pretty much lays out front and center an artist that is suffering from depression along with the dependencies and addictions that come from trying to self-medicate the disease. The lyric “I made my way into the spotlight/Just to realize it’s not what I want,” pretty much describes the state of mind in play when this record was made.
Unfortunately on July 3, 2018 Richard Swift passed away. His family released a statement saying the musician’s demise had been due to “complications from hepatitas, as well as liver and kidney distress.” Thankfully, a genius of a musical legacy was behind as Swift wraps things up quite nicely on the song A&R Man. “My name will go missing but the songs’ll be here.”