Swampgrass - 'One Eye Open' (Self Released) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Jonathon Kardasz   
Monday, 14 March 2016 04:00

swampgrass-One-Eye-Open-cover-frontSwampgrass are from Glastonbury. They play the blues. That’s the bare facts, but their new LP, 'One Eye Open', is more than just another blues album. It’s true the genre has been going through quite a resurgence over the past few years with more guitar slingers than you can shake a stick at, blues rock bands by the dozen and young Joe Bonamassa the colossus bestriding the whole thang.


Rather than jumping on any bandwagon, Swampgrass have successfully elected to present something a little different. So rather than Free re-treads, Stevie Ray Vaughan power solos or tunes aping the classic electric Chicago sound, we have a rocking jazzy set full of delightful twists and turns.


There are great up-tempo numbers – 'Heart Attack' is arguably Sharon Honeywell’s best vocal performance, a thundering dancefloor classic tale of a femme fatale that you know is gonna be a blast live, whilst 'Got Me Goin' rattles along like a freight train. That said 'Six Feet Deep' runs those tunes a good race in terms of vocals and is even more of a breathless dance number with a scorching sax solo just this side of being out of control.


Honeywell’s performance is beautifully nuanced throughout – she has the range and power to give it some Janis Joplin – but instead sits back on the tunes, tailoring her performance to the material; strong when needed and happy to kick back and sing rather than hollering or delivering one of those generic octave-busting histrionic performances favoured by talent show wannabe divas.


Meanwhile the band are tight as a nun’s chuff, meshed in tight with plenty of tasty solos but no grandstanding or showboating, and the rhythm section delivering an understated but juicy foundation for the leads. See Andy Barnett’s strutting bass on 'Providence; that sneaks off in to a cheeky reggae breakdown as the song concludes or the thundering drums from Dru Frank on the dance numbers.  


Bard Lister’s guitar work is splendidly versatile… 'One Eye Open' is the heaviest cut on the record with a driving rhythm; a bit of a headbanger in fact but with nice picking behind the riffs and a scorching solo. He throws out a stinging solo on 'Providence' too and you can hear the enjoyment in his playing as he duels with Al Cosnett’s harp on 'Roadside Soul', a hefty traditional tune enlivened by the six string / harp interplay. The additional musicians add plenty of flavour: 'Grandad Frank' is a film noire jazz tale enlivened by Billy Shinbone’s accordion (and a killer walking bass line); 'Little Things' is a smouldering ballad built on Richard Jenkins’ keys and smoky saxophone from George Engelen.


The recording itself is astonishingly good, clear as a bell and with a rich analogue feel that sounds like it took months to achieve in a state of the art studio, and yet… “The whole thing was done in two days about two weeks apart, we did it at Weston-Super-Mare university campus and got helped out by the first year music production course students who were ace and joined us in providing the backing vocals to 'Hell No'”. In fact 'Hell No' is tailor made to close a set with its great gang vocal breakdown crying out for a sweaty audience singalong.


JoBo’s new LP drops in March as does this gem, so may I suggest that Joe won’t mind if you delay buying his record in order to support a band that deserve your hard earned cash and will reward you with a delightful 40 minutes of irresistible speakeasy blues.




To pick up your copy of 'One Eye Open' - CLICK HERE