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« ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER - Last Summer | Main | UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA - S/T »
Sunday
Jul102011

VA - Delta Swamp Rock – Sounds From The South: At The Crossroads Of Rock, Country And Soul

Swamp rock is a distinctively southern white U.S. phenomenon, an overlap of many musical Venn Diagram circles. And though the title of this comp suggests that a Mississippi birth certificate is a prerequisite, that is also not necessary. One of its key exponents, John Fogerty, for all of his southern-isms, was born in Berkeley, California, far from Bayou Country to be sure. Geographical authenticity, however, was less important with swamp rock than sounding southern. After all, when you’re drawing from country, blues, gospel, soul, rock, and Cajun music, chances are you probably absorbed at least some of these sounds while doing a degree in university. No matter, the music produced during the thick of the swamp rock period (roughly 1968 to 1973) is some of the best soul music of the time, eschewing uptown slick and going for the dirt and grit associated with swamps, wetlands and such. 

One of the definitive swamp rock songs, "Polk Salad Annie" by Tony Joe White, was recorded in 1968 and celebrates the southern way of life which may have included eating polk salad (polk being a weed that grows in the swamps of the south). Elvis picked up on the song and spent most of the rest of his career wading through similar musical terrain.

One of the swampiest records ever recorded, Dr. John’s Gris-Gris, is a pure masterwork, and while The Night Tripper does not preside here, his "I Walk On Guilded Splinters" makes an appearance respectfully tackled by Cher. Dan Penn, one of the greatest white songwriters to blur the racial lines of southern music, is here with his mighty "If Love Was Money". Linda Ronstadt pulls one of the best numbers in the set with the outstanding country gospel waltz of "I Won’t Be Hangin’ Round". This wouldn’t be southern rock without the Allmans, Skynyrd, Bobbie Gentry, Leon Russell, and Boz Scaggs. Then, there are surprise turns from Big Star (definitely the most southern-sounding power pop band of the era), Cowboy (never heard of them before, but "Please Be With Me" is beautiful slice of country rock), Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Link Wray (whose early '70s output fits the genre quite nicely).

It’s a wonderful document of an underappreciated sub-genre of rock, and once again Soul Jazz delivers. Everyone needs a summer soundtrack, and this one would be perfect for your next road trip, fishing trip, or cottage weekend. 

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