Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Swap Meet. Swap Meet

Swap Meet. Swap Meet.
Self-released, 2018. Swap Meet:

Swap Meet describes itself on its Facebook site as, “original acoustic music from the heart for your soul.” Yeah, we’ll go with that. They’ve been performing extensively around the area for a while now, in a variety of venues We originally reviewed their debut EP in late 2015, with six songs. You can go read that to find out that we liked it a lot, describing it as “Northeast Ohio Americana/country/gypsy jazz.” That continues in large part because five of the six songs on the EP appear here. But if by some chance you have the old recording, that shouldn’t stop you for a second in acquiring the music on this new release. I can’t always tell if the old tunes have been completely rearranged and re-recorded, or sometimes simply remastered with overdubs, but it is clear that the music sounds different, and even better than the first time around. Plus there are eight new songs to hear. Let’s check out the older material first.

The first four tracks also appeared on the first release, along with “Gypsy Desire,” further along. All are strong tunes (Peter wrote them), deserving of wide listening and radio play (I hope somebody is playing this stuff!). They are, by and large, improvements on the originals. “Gypsy Desire” has lost the canned radio sound, which was interesting, but the new version really pops in a way that the older one doesn’t. The vocals sound stronger and the guitar solos stand out. “Waters Blue” is still a stunning beauty of a country-style song, as is “A Broken Heart Gets No Relief.” Curiously, my favorite of the older tunes, “Moonbeams Fall” is made significantly better by the emphasis of the flute for solo, which is just a knockout jazzy romp. 

As for the new songs, they mostly fit in thematically, but expand the band’s palette of colors, moving further into gospel, country, blues, and jazz, with a bit of comedy thrown in. “P.B.F.H.” (Psycho Bitch from Hell) takes care of the last part of the list pretty well. “Lana” moves jazzy, with a subject who is both intriguing and a bit scary (not sure if I’d ever want to meet Lana, but I love the song). “Before I Drown” takes us back toward country, as does “Double Nickels,” both of which are fine, enjoyable songs. It’s hard to pick personal favorites, because there are no clinkers, no filler here. The album ends on the beautiful and strong “Agree,” with a touch of politics and Kari and Michelle intertwining voices.

The music has endless variety, owing partly to the multiple styles employed by the group, as well as the three vocalists, each of whom lends a different mood and color to the songs they’re featured in. They also blend together so nicely in harmonies, and the solo work on guitar and flute are spectacular. A highly enjoyable album, available on iTunes and Spotify, made better by the fact that they can be found in concert right nearby. Go listen.

Personnel: Kari Rutushin (vocals, rub board, flute, ukulele), Michelle Reyna (vocals, washboard), Spencer Paul (stand up bass), Stuart Abrams (lead guitar), Walter Genutis (vocals), Peter Nario-Redmond (vocals, guitar). Somebody’s playing mandolin?
Tracks: What’s So Good About Being Happy?; Waters Blue; Moonbeams Fall; A Broken Heart Gets No Relief; Jesus; I Dig You; Before I Drown; Democracy Hypocrisy; Gypsy Desire; Lana; P.B.F.H.; Double Nickels; Agree.

Jeff Wanser