Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Emma Swift: Blonde On The Tracks

The standard joke is that Bob Dylan’s songs are always better when somebody else sings them. We know that’s not always true, but every now and then a voice comes along to help the medicine go down more easily. Emma Swift has one of those voices, a smooth alto with country tinges. Throughout Blonde On The Tracks she applies it to Dylan’s lyrics while staying true to the original melodies.
While recorded over several years and studios throughout Nashville, Pat Sansone’s production helps keep the album very much of a piece. “Queen Jane Approximately” has a mild Byrds jangle, but nicely laid-back drums that make the song more gentle. This is a mere appetizer for “I Contain Multitudes”, which had only been out for weeks before she found a way to inject more notes into his original three-note range. “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)” gets a reading distilled through Oh Mercy, as does “Simple Twist Of Fate” to an extent, but that one is dominated by Thayer Serrano’s pedal steel guitar. The ballsiest move is to tackle all 12 minutes of “Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands”, and she does, without making it drag at all. Even the fade is lovely. “The Man In Me” gets some soul plus some nice harmonies on the bridge, and as with the rest of the album, she leaves the gender references intact. Her take on “Going Going Gone” will have you wondering why more people haven’t covered it, and while “You’re A Big Girl Now” doesn’t end the program on an up note, it’s an excellent reading. All together, a lovely surprise.

Emma Swift Blonde On The Tracks (2020)—

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