At the opening bars of Swampcandy's The Dirty Suite I got excited. Down-dirty, bump-and-grind, moaning-and-groaning blues roots music. I'm thinking that these guys are channeling R.L. Burnside or some other departed Hill-country or Delta blues master.
The ethnomusicologists will get tied in knots over this one. Is it blues or rock? Is it roots or fusion? It is very clearly blues-based but there is also an element of rock that colors most the cuts. Some of the instrumentation could be mistaken as contemporary influenced but Swampcandy (aka Ruben Dobbs) has just done his homework. He has seen the blues in all it's hues.
As the collection progresses, though, it has some problems with maintaining consistent quality. Cuts like South Country, Texas Sun or Sissy Man Blues are genuine and strong. They are well written and masterfully performed. A special treat is Get Me Religion. Those familiar with the blues will recognize this immediately as an alter-ego of Son House's Preaching Blues.
Other cuts are less than inspired. On closer listening it turns out that all the solo and duo tracks start at good and range into the great. The full band tracks are less enjoyable. It is difficult to take a genre of blues that is traditionally a solo genre and transform it into a full band form. R.L. Burnside, The North Mississippi All-Stars, even The White Stripes can do this. Swampcandy hasn't perfected it YET though.
Check out that word "yet." Swampcandy is Dobbs on vocals, drum programing, bass, guitars and foot stompin and Kevin Lebling on harmonica, wash board, spoons and some hand clapping. The full sound they present is particularly impressive when you know that two guys are the source of all this sound. And I love the sound these guys are getting! Great vocals, strong musicianship and some good writing signal that Swampcandy is worth listening too, worth following and worth supporting so that they will be around long enough the figure out the full band treatment of this material.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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