Album Reviews

Swamp Cabbage


Artist:     Swamp Cabbage

Album:     Jive

Label:     Walter Parks

Release Date:     04/04/2016


Walter Parks is a tall man who wears many hats: singer, songwriter, guitarist, and leader of Swamp Cabbage, a powerful rock trio rooted in the mystery of the Okefenokee. For ten years he served as sideman for Richie Havens until his passing in 2013. Mr. Parks is also the creator of “Swamp By Chandelier,” a solo concert experience that incorporates his original tunes, some by Havens, and the historical hollers and stories of the southeast Georgia swampers, aka “Crackers.”

Swamp Cabbage’s latest release, Jive, is an amalgamation of southern rock, blues, jazz, funk and instrumental oddities. At times, Park’s raspy growl and beefy blues lines bring to mind ZZ Top, an influence he does not deny, but his lyrical prowess, jazzier chord choices, and relative lack of guitar solos distinguish his tunes from those of Top. Parks writes with great humor on the first track “Buttah,” an ode to the delicious lipid. The chorus lets us know: “Day g’on be butta people where you from/ That’s just the way this kinda food g’on come/ Day g’on be waffles cause you’re in da house/ Day g’on be butta ‘cause you in the south/ Buttah!” I think this is the first time in my life I’ve found myself pumping my fist along to a chorus about butter! You will too. Such are the skills of Mr. Parks.

NY drummer supreme Jagoda lays down an irresistible second line shuffle on “Big For Just A Little While,” while “White Gold” moves with a Waitsian junkyard groove. Parks has a staggeringly wide vocal range and is as agile scraping low notes as high falsettos, which he does to great effect on “Cash,” a tale of the band’s willingness to do whatever it takes to get paid. “Bilbao Spain” is a hilarious critique of American cultural naivete and how Ponce de Leon don’t get no respect in Spain. Bearded bassist and engineer Jim Devito forks out a fat and fuzzy bottom end while Parks pontificates.“I’m asking all around about Ponce de Leon/ the founder of the Fountain of Youth/ I know him as a statue pigeons pee on/ my hero don’t deserve such abuse/ forgotten conquistador it’s todo claro who you did it all for.” Anyone who can so seamlessly incorporate Spanish, history and humor into a rock song has got my respect!

There are ten tunes on this dynamic disk, all of them awesome. As the name so comically implies, Swamp Cabbage is redolent with the pungent funkiness of southern bogs. This is roots rock at its finest peppered with satirical humor and keen observations on odd Americana. You can be sure it was made with lots of “Buttah.” Highly recommended!

– Michael Cobb

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