The Jack Buzzards who are led by the multi-talented John Eric Thiede play music in the New Orleans brass band style. Shunning the more upbeat and uptempo sounds Thiede, who wrote all the songs on "Swung," instead focuses on the more laconic and melancholy side of the music.
"Blacktop" which opens the album immediately highlights several of the band's strengths. Thiede has a great voice that is ideally suited to the musical style, sitting somewhere in a square bounded by Tom Waits, Louis Armstrong, Nick Cave and Dr John. The flexible line-up, which is changed to match the tune always find the right balance, and the horns have really captured that immediately identifiable New Orleans sound. Hall Sanders, in particular, does a fine job on sax, most notably on "Ragweed" and the moody instrumental "So Long Sweetheart."
The band rarely make it up into dance tempo, with the main exception being
passages of "Jack Buzzards Ball" which intermittently almost swings. It does not make any difference, however, since it just means that "Swung" is an album that has to be listened to, preferably as you relax with a large glass of something. For most of "Swung" the band adhere to some sort of brass band line up, with the size of the horn section varying as required. For a couple of tracks, though, things are stripped back to basics.
"Shoofly" is a simple vocal duet, where Thiede provides acoustic guitar and piano, and the album's closer, "Magpie," is just vocals and guitars (dobro, acoustic, and pedal steel). The latter is one of those tracks that defies categorization, and keeps you guessing about what Thiede will come up with next.
"Swung" is a little bit different, but that is where part of its appeal lies. It follows pretty closely the New Orleans brass band style, but Thiede's songs add a touch of originality to the proceedings. Fans of Tom Waits and Nick Cave will find something here to admire, and Dr John would probably approve of tracks like "Catfish Daddy." Most enjoyable.
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