April 17th (April 18th in Australia) sees the world wide release of New York outfit Swear & Shake's debut long player "Maple Ridge". This is an album I have long been looking forward to, ever since I chronicled the band in my 2011 T.N.B.N.O.T feature. At that time, I had discovered S & S through their self titled E.P. which quickly rose to the top of my playlist and has remained there ever since. Back then, I felt their music was a kind of nod to the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, Arlo Guthrie, Henry Rollins and The Decemberists. Make no mistake though - Swear and Shake have a passionately individual and original sound that should be seen and experienced on it's own terms.
"Maple Ridge" represents and important milestone for the band. Funded partially through Kickstarter - of which I was a proud contributor - the album show cases Swear & Shake in all their indie cred glory. And it is a sumptuous album, full of charm and character, brass and banjos, accordions and acoustics. Recording as they did at the titular Maple Ridge barn in upstate New York, the overall sound has a beauty that is warm and real - untainted by the studio process. The production team have experimented, drawing on the natural acoustics within the barn and adding them to the aural tableaux which makes the listening experience just so damned interesting. The core musicians along with their guest artists are at the top of their game too, bringing each track an individual style - no two tracks are quite the same but, as a collection, they are synchronous - they belong together. And of course, the vocal duets between Kari and Adam are raucous at times, intimate at others and honest always. They have fun and they have heart. It is a jewel of a recording.
As I write this, I've been away in rural South Australia on a locum placement and I've had the good fortune (as a Kickstarter backer) to have an advance listen. It has become my soundtrack to my journey on the back roads and highways of the Outback, a perfect accompaniment to the wide open spaces of the rural heartland, the wheat fields and the sheep paddocks and the towering grain silos that are really, the only evidence that anyone is out here. "Maple Ridge" really does suit any place though or any mood. Losing yourself in it is sublime.
If you are a connosieur of an earthy sound, an indie folk rockabilly, this is an album that you must treat yourself to. Do yourself a big favor. "Maple Ridge" is available for purchase directly from the band's website in either digital download or physical CD.
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