home listen reviews artists a-z
Swamp Cabbage

HONK • Swamp Cabbage

Comparing artists is an odious thing. Still, if it is true, as the old saw says, that "writing about music is like dancing to architecture," then at least comparisons provide a convenient shorthand, sending the reader quickly to the stylistic territory of the music under discussion. So when I write, "If ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons had grown up fingerpicking guitar in the swamps of Florida, instead of flat-picking in the plains of Texas, he might have sounded like Walter Parks of Swamp Cabbage"--take it for what it is worth. Swamp Cabbage’s gruff vocals, trio format, and brilliantly witty lyrics extolling the joys of redneck romance form a meeting ground with "that Lil’ Old Band from Texas," but it is where the groups diverge that the music gets really interesting.

Park’s funky fingerpicking, with its combination of country, ragtime, blues, and rock influences, gives him an instantly distinctive voice on the instrument. Meanwhile Jagoda’s swamp drumming offers an additional rhythmic sophistication that underpins even the simple train beat of "Silver Meteor" and the straight rock-blues of "More Booty With Buddha." Far from playing it straight, Matt Lindsey’s bass loosely lopes along, evidencing an approach and tone reminiscent of a second-line Sousaphone--think Rick Danko (sorry, more comparisons).

Just as Gibbons & Co. explore the poetry of Texas vernacular (the Top’s "Cover Your Rig" has to be the coolest if not the only metaphoric intersection of trucking and safe sex), Parks revels in the melodious and rhythmic splendor of Southern names like Tallahassee, Bogalusa, Chattahoochee, and Tchapatoulas. He is not afraid to construct an entire song, albeit a short one, around appellations like these, with his current residence of "Jersey City" recruited for the title and perhaps contrast.

The versatile guitarist helps pay the bills by playing ambient, country acoustic alongside Richie Havens, but keeps his Cabbage sound focused on the raunchy electric tones of his red Guild hollow-body, with a little banjo thrown in for extra backwoods flavor.

Comparisons aside, Swamp Cabbage has carved out its own sonic space in the roots-rock genre. If you are lucky enough to see them live, you will get the added bonus of Parks’ between-tunes banter, adding a helping of Medicine-show atmosphere to the already fog and moss shrouded aura of the music. • Michael Ross

return to covers      listen to clips     buy it here

swampcabbage.com       walterparks.com

[A bit more about the inimitable Walter Parks: he is spoken of in our interviews with Richie Havens and Stephanie Winters.]

leslielyons.com        puremusic home