The Swearengens Album Release Party Packs The Tractor (Seattle, WA)
Jackrabbit and Lucky Lawrence on June 26, 2015
"If I'm sober enough to hold a pen, I'll write a review," I told Fredd Luongo, singer/songwriter for The Swearengens. I reflected on their previous whiskey-soaked shows just days before their their album release party at The Tractor Tavern. Some of our best and most memorable shows took place with The Swearengens in the lineup, and many at The Tractor Tavern.
It's a guaranteed good time whenever The Swearengens take the stage, and this hot Friday night in late June proved no exception. It was also a most appropriate evening for celebration and love. Not only were The Swearengens reveling in the release of a new album surrounded by friends and family, but this was also the day the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal for the entire country, which hit close to home with many in attendance this evening.
I looked around and saw numerous friends and familiar faces. Ethan Anderson, lead singer/songwriter of Massy Ferguson, showed up to give support. He must have sneaked away from daddy duty for a few hours, as he is now the proud father of a second son, only a few weeks old. Jay Kardong, pedal steel extraordinaire, was in the audience, along with Mike Giacolino, ready to celebrate the release of his own album, Broken Roads June 30.
Opening the show was Jackrabbit, another local favorite. Band members include multi-talented singer/songwriter/film maker Tony Fulgham on lead vocals and guitar, smiling badass Aimee Zoe on drums, and partner in crime, the rockin' Moe Provencer on bass. Tony's family members were also in attendance, including his mom (who can always be found two-stepping at his shows), sister, and lovely wife Daisy. They started strong with "Big Kids", a big, up-tempo rocker from their latest album, A Better Place, followed by a new one called "Well Runs Dry". "One Last Time" was introduced as a song about makeup sex with Aimee sharing vocals.
Before the song, "Falling is Mine", Tony gave a very emotional account of a young man from his high school in the 1980's who met a tragic end. It turns out, he was gay. It was a bittersweet day, as all can legally marry now.
"Fathers and Sons" is a personal favorite--a loving song about a father giving advice to his son. They also added more new ones, and ended the set with "Lonely Road", just blasting into space on the chorus. There is such a great chemistry between the three Jackrabbit members. They're a happy band who performed a perfect balance of high-energy rockers and moody, emotional tunes for this night of love.
Lucky Lawrence and The Souvenirs took the stage. Although this alt-country band of 6 have been around awhile (since the late 90's), I've never had a chance to see them. At times, they have a psychedelic flavor, but are also a perfect blend of country and rock. The band includes soulful harmonies and guitar work from Kelly Van Camp and Lucky, along with energetic playing from local veteran bassist Jack Hanan, and a talented Perry Morgan on drums, John Hyde on steel, and Robert Lee Mitchell on keys. They played a long set as more dancers took to the floor, filling the first third of The Tractor's narrow floor space. Here is "Calling Me Back To You", their siren song, from their latest album, I Fell For Stories:
After a brief intermission, The Swearengens finally took the stage in the eleventh hour, just in time for another round. Their new album, entitled 'Merican Woman & Other Tales not only includes four new songs, but a compilation of the last two EP's: Waiting On The Sunrise and Devil Gets Her Way. It also has two bonus track demos. One, "You Pissed on My Heart" was the song that first caught my attention at their show several years ago, when I realized, much to my liking, that Luongo's songwriting has a dark sense of humor, along with sincere, sometimes heart-crushing songs of love.
The 15-song setlist included the favorites off The Swearengens' current albums, a couple of unreleased tunes, and a few surprises thrown in, like a rocking cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" with Luongo's vocals a perfect fit to that uber cool alternative tune from 1990.
Fredd was on his game, smiling at the crowd, jovial, and loose (maybe due to a little pre-show lubrication), a different person than when he opened solo for Doug Seegers. As he stated before the Seegers show, he enjoys having his band on stage with him--it gives him an added sense of security. Plus, the crowd was well-oiled by the time The Swearengens took the stage this night, unlike his solo performance opening for Mr. Seegers, which was in front of a very sober and seated audience.
Fredd Luongo shared his thoughts about the new album:
Fredd: "I'm pretty happy with the new recordings and I think 'American Woman', 'Nobody But You', and 'Bended Knee' showcase the lighter side of the band that was missing from the last album, which tended to be emotionally heavy throughout, though I hope the underlying emotional sincerity still comes through. It's also the first batch of tunes with our new rhythm section; Kirsten Ballweg on bass and Jeff Baars on drums, who delivered a really lively and tight foundation to the recordings."
He borrowed Mitchell from The Souvenirs on keys this night, adding some sonic depth. He also brought up some guest singers for a few songs, as well as Mike Giacolino, who plays a mean harp.
They started the long set with "If You Come Around Here" from Waiting On The Sunrise and without missing a beat, dove right into "For Awhile" from Devil Gets Her Way. The dancers turned and twirled on the floor as the rest of the crowd backed up to give them room. That was the most dancing I've seen at any show at The Tractor.
Soren Godbersen was screaming on guitar tonight. He sounded tight and controlled with some solos that turned the alt-country evening into a full-on rock show. Kirsten Ballweg always rocks on bass, and is even part of The Dee Dees, an all-girl Ramones cover band.
Next, they covered Warren Zevon's "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me", made famous by Linda Ronstadt, followed by "Out of the Rain" this local's favorite.
A trio of new songs followed, including the title track, "'Merican Woman", a sweet love song called "Nobody But You", and "Bended Knee", Fredd Luongo's ode to The King.
The Swearengens kept going, though, and churned out three more songs before exploding into "Bleeding Blue", the grinding bluesy tune from Waiting On The Sunrise:
For an encore, they played "The Letter (Don't Look Back)", a quiet, remorseful tune, and the title track "Waiting On The Sunrise" with a beautiful chorus in Fredd's upper register. The Swearengens ended the night with a cover of Springsteen's "Downbound Train" to a cheering, inebriated, sweaty, collective mass.