It is great to hear Ray Benson and The Avett Brothers getting together to pay tribute to the songs of Willie Nelson.
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.”
Another band that should be high on your radar. This Australian Alt-Punk band has a Replacements meets The Smiths vibe that is contagious. “An Airconditioned Man” is the latest single and video from their new record, Hope Downs.
Right of the bat, the addition of producer Ted Hutt who has knob twirled for Dropkick Murphy’s, The Gaslight Anthem, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones is paying major dividends. The production value is top notch as the band sings of redemption and ruin against a Western Noir backdrop that captives and sucks you in. There is an early Byrds echo throughout the record with some heavy Ryan Adams influence.
The song “Paint My Face” is a song that captures all that is good with this band and their own unique style of Americana. The 60’s jangle guitar flows effortlessly into three piece harmonies that caress the song perfectly, and “All Is Quiet” is a slow burn stunner of a song.
The new record represents a bit more of a sophisticated approach for the band with the addition of Stefan Amidon to make them an official three piece band, hence the name. The change and more polished sound may not put the band in favor with some of their ardent fans that are used to their ramshackle live shows, but heck, even The Replacements had to grow up.
The real beauty of this record is the way that the band weaves different styles and tempos into eleven songs that fit perfectly as a whole and also stand individually as individual artistic entities. Just listen to “Castles” and you will see the light.
The launchers are a band that is a bit hard to qualify. They don’t have a proper record out and they have only released a few singles. The group Madness is about as close as you might come for comparison purpose. They are a fun band with a bit of Ska thrown into the mix.
For those of you that are lamenting the demise of the Scissor Sisters, lament no more. The head man of the Glam Rock band Jake Shears has released his first solo record and it is a fun one. Full of pomp, circumstance, and bravado this one is next level glamerific. Somewhere Freddie Mercury is smiling.
William Elliot Whitmore is one of the more unusual voices you will here on the Americana trail. The gravel voiced singer comes across like a 20’s gospel preacher on steroids. “Busted,” a song made famous by Ray Charles fits his voice perfectly. Look forward to a new full length record later in the year.