Wed, Mar 6, 2013.
The East Coast Music Week kicks off today (Wednesday) in Halifax, with the usual hubbub, and lots and lots of concerts and showcases. I'll be getting there Thursday night, with a few work commitments to finish up before hitting the road. Until I can do some on-the-spot reporting, there's lots of new music to tell you about, as the ECMA's is always a good time to release a new album. With all the attention of the media and the music community focused on this week, artists do well by making themselves visible in some way. If you're not up for an award, you can try to get a showcase performance, or a club date, maybe a live slot on Radio ECMA, which broadcasts to hosting city. Or, you can go big, and make your own event. Launching an album during the ECMA's is a sure-fire way to get people to take notice.
Thom Swift knows this. He's been around long enough to have all the right connections, and he knows how to make an album launch a fun time. His new one, The Fortunate Few, came out Tuesday, and on Friday at the ECMA's, it might as well be Thom Swift day. First off, in the afternoon, you'll be able to hear him live all over the Maritimes, as Thom is one of the featured performers right here on Radio 1. He'll be part of CBC's Mainstreet special program for the Maritimes that runs from 4 to 6. Then at 9 PM, he's playing live as part of the R'n'B and Soul Stage. And then just an hour later, he has to zip over to the venerable Seahorse Tavern to play at the Music Nova Scotia stage. That's how you do the ECMA's..you play as much as you can.
The Fortunate Few is Swift's third solo disc in his long career that also includes all those albums with Hot Toddy. It's been a real treat to watch him develop over the years. Each time out, there's improvement in one or more areas. This is significant, because as any long-time fan will know, the guy has been good right from the start. But as he's moved from being a band member to a solo artist and band leader, with the focus on him, he's continued to polish his skills. It's to the point now where you can call him an exceptional singer, with that low and mellow croon of his. Or you can focus on his guitar-playing, his deep-blues slide playing a specialty. Then there's the songwriting. That's where I think the leap has come with this album. When Swift was with Hot Toddy, he'd contribute a couple or three tunes with lyrics, and they always stood out. When he went solo, the weight of a whole album was on him. Again, some numbers were stand-outs, but not each song. The Fortunate Few offers the strongest collection of his own songs yet. Mostly this seems to have come from the topics, a good batch of emotional ideas, from tales of friends that trust each other and lean on the group for support, to the title cut, with his philosophy, that in order to be happy you have to be aware and thankful for what you have.
So, when you add these strong lyrics to his other, obvious talents, this album is best, from start to finish, that he's done. It's a not a party album, it's more intimate and serious, from the love songs to the numbers about community and friendship. And that mellowness really lets him work the microphone, his big voice under control and comforting. Or seductive. That depends on your point of view, and interest.
Swift might be debuting the disc in Halifax this week, but he's going to hit the road and bring it back home soon enough. He'll be in the province for a series of shows this March and April, starting with a show for the Carleton-Victoria Arts Council on Friday, March 22nd, then the Saint John Ale House that Saturday the 23rd. He'll be back later in the spring to play the Playhouse in Fredericton, the Casino in Moncton and Paddlefest in St. Andrews.
For more info on shows and buying the disc and such, you can check out http://www.facebook.com/PhillipsPublicRelationsLtd or http://www.facebook.com/thomswiftmusic
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).