The big buzz this week is Wednesday’s birthday party for Carlos Santana – Complete with a cover set by Bitter Roots, a coloring contest (The Santana lp jacket designed by Lee Conklin) and a chili cookoff – But our live music Sundays will also return this week with a great local Americana group, the Swallows.
These guys are currently recording their second album, and they’ve been playing around town for more than three years but they go even further back in the local scene. Jeff Crandall and Aaron Kerr recorded an album together in 2000 as Thinland. Along with multi-instrumentalist Tyson Allison they also play in side projects Dissonant Creatures and the Sleeper Pins.
A lot of the reviews of their first album, Clear Sky Relapse compare their sound to a variety of artists I’m not really familiar with. I guess record reviews don’t really help when that happens. And I suppose my own impression of the disc – Lush Lambchop-esque arrangements and Steve Earle-ian vocals – would be the same. The best way to learn about something is to listen to it, anyway, and with this player from their website you can hear the entire disc! If you find yourself enjoying it, I hope you will click to Bandcamp.com to buy it for a reasonable $7.
The one thing I will tell you to listen for is the unique instrumentation. In addition to familiar keyboards and guitars, the Swallows accent their songs beautifully with an electric cello (Played by Aaron Kerr) and a mandolin (Mike Nordby). More and more groups are using cello but few of them do it as well as the Swallows do on “The Ballad of Charon”. Aaron won a McKnight Foundation Fellowship for his compositions on his debut solo cello CD, Arco 71. The reason the first track, “Clear Sky Relapse”, made me think of Lambchop is the rich, evocative sound of Aaron’s cello, which is sort of like Deanna Varagona’s baritone sax on the classic Lambchop albums.
I guess it’s all subjective, for instance a few reviews of their new disc compares Jeff Crandall’s singing to Tom Waits, which is something I think lazy reviewers do a lot with any male singer who has a gravelly voice. You can get a sense that Crandall is more of a blues singer from some of the videos they’ve posted online. I think he’s more like Dave Alvin or Joe Ely in that way. Here’s a clip of the playing “The Ascetic” at the Palace Stage in St Paul:
These guys are, incidentally, not the early doo wop group Baltimore known for the seminal single “Will You Be Mine?”, although Minnesota’s Swallows did post a song by Maryland’s Swallows on their Facebook page this spring.
Another thing they posted online was a video for the track “Come to Me”. Here it is, but I should warn you that there’s strippers and stuff in the video, so if you’re likely to be offended by that it would probably be better to watch this video instead.
The Swallows will be playing here at Hymie’s Sunday the 24th at 3 pm, which is getting to be our regular time for in-store performances. In fact, were glad to have these guys start out a string of great bands that will include a jazz trio featuring … the same Aaron Kerr (Jazzen)! Also appearing on a Sunday afternoon will be Jezebel Jones, who is another artist working towards a distinctive Minnesota approach to Americana, and the Knotwells, whose full-throttle approach to country and bluegrass is sure to rock the whole shop. And at the end of next month local guitarist Tom Harris will come in to play some blues. Its all on the in-store appearances page which you can get to from the link up above.