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Another great review for Thom Swift – don’t miss him tonight at the Playhouse!

by on March 19, 2010

Nothing but blue skies for Swift

Published Friday March 19th, 2010

Music: Singer-songwriter hits the road in support of new album, finds fans along the way
Mike Landry

Thom Swift doesn’t play a lot of bars these days, but on his last night performing as part of the Vancouver Winter Olympics he let his hair down and played a bar so packed people were wedged up against the stage two feet from his microphone.

Click to Enlarge
courtesy Mark Hemmings
Thom Swift plays three shows in the province over the next week in support of his latest release, ‘Blue Sky Day,’ the followup to his 2007 debut ‘Into the Dirt.’

“It was like frosh week,” says Swift on the phone, overlooking the Sydney River at the ECMAs two weeks ago. “Kids dressed up as beavers and lumberjacks. It was just nuts, but super fun.”

Although he enjoyed the raucous affair, Swift says he’s “definitely in a better place now.” A longtime member of Fredericton trio Hot Toddy, Swift released the follow-up to his award-winning debut solo record last month. With its mix of genre-spanning tracks, Blue Sky Day has reached an eclectic range of listeners and had Swift flying from East Coast songwriting circles to Vancouver bars and Memphis folk festivals, all in the span of a month.

“I just do what I do. I write the music I want to write, and I’m not thinking about genres when I’m doing it. That’s just me. It seems to have worked out really well. This album is being embraced by a lot of people and crossing over into a lot of different areas.”

Swift and his backing band, which he calls the El Caminos, arrive in Fredericton tonight to play The Playhouse in the first stop of a Maritime tour that will bring them to Riverview and Saint next week.

Swift says the early reviews of Blue Sky Day are “off-the-chart positive.” Receiving regular rotation on Galaxie radio’s Celtic station, the track Killer has gone national on rock charts.

“How could I not be happy with that? … Killer is definitely a big surprise to me. But at the same time so is getting a call from a folk guy who runs a radio station in Ottawa and him telling me he heard my music and had to pull off the side of the road and call the station to ask, ‘who the hell is this? I got to have this guy on my radio show.’ ”

While his 2007 debut record, Into the Dirt, was a happy experiment that far surpassed his expectations, winning an ECMA, Maple Blues Award and a Galexie Rising Star award, Swift strived for impact with Blue Sky Day.

“I just said to (record producer) Charles Austin, ‘I want this album to be really bold. It’s time, we’ve got to really bring it up six or eight notches, or as much as we can to make it better.’ He was onboard hard, and he did it. We were able to achieve that.”

Austin, bassist for former Halifax indie-rock pioneers The Super Friendz and now the must-have producer for people like Joel Plaskett, David Myles and Buck 65, was just the guy for the job, pushing for a slightly nosier, grunge, from the band. It helped that Austin, like the rest of Swift’s band, had also worked together on Into the Dirt. They were all comfortable to push the songs into new directions.

“We just opened up and went for it “¦ The guys on that album are my best friends. They have been for many years, and just happen to be some of the best players the region has to offer. They’re all 30-year pros.

“They’re just awesome players. You can always find really great players, but it’s special when you have a relationship for 20-plus years and you know their wives and families. So everyone is working really hard to put out the very best we can.”

The decades of music each member brings to the band helps contribute to its eclectic sound. It also makes it tough for Swift to stick to simply a traditional blues sound.

“All this stuff makes me where I’m at right now. I had rock bands when I was younger. I played ragtime music when I was 10 years old. I love folk music. All the music that I’ve heard and all my friends in the industry over the years, they’ve affected me. I just like to look at it where there are no fences and no borders, it’s completely wide open and I’m able to just do what it is that I do. I’m just documenting what’s inside me.”

After a month of touring on his own, Swift is happy to tour the Maritimes with the rest of his band to bring the album to life onstage. He hopes Hot Toddy fans around the province come out with an open mind to the shows, “because it’s not necessarily what a lot of Hot Toddy fans will expect.”

But that’s the nice thing about Blue Sky Day – it’s even better than your expectations.

“They’re in for surprises, for sure.”

Thom Swift and the El Caminos play tonight at 8 p.m. at The Playhouse in Fredericton. Tickets, $23-$25, are available at the box office, 458-8344, They play The Riverview Arts Centre in Riverview on Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets, $20-$25, are available at the box office, 852-7189, They play The Blue Olive in Saint John next Friday at 9 p.m. For tickets, $20, call 634-3183.

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