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The Excellent Sides of Swamp Dogg, Vol. 5

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Album Review

Jerry Williams (aka Swamp Dogg) has been restoring a number of his long out-of-print albums for availability on CD with his Excellent Sides of Swamp Dogg series, and Volume Five features a pair of lesser-known items from his archives. 1976's You Ain't Never Too Old to Boogie was a set of rollicking, soulful funk that was tossed out the backdoor by DJM Records, even though it's one of Swamp Dogg's most approachable (and least eccentric) LPs. Mostly devoted to songs about the ups and downs and being in love and playing music, the album pairs Williams with a tight and emphatic studio combo (featuring the great Travis Wammack on guitar), and the results will start a party in no time flat. The next nine tracks are taken from an unreleased album Williams cut for Mercury, which he claims was shelved because the label was too frightened to put out a country album by an African-American artist. While the results certainly have a noticeable R&B accent, most of this stuff wouldn't be out of place on country radio in the '80s, with plenty of fiddle and steel guitar and no small amount of studio sheen. Significantly, Williams' stories of love both good and bad among grown-ups owe a lot to the traditions of both Southern soul and classic country, and songs like "That's My Wife," "Don't Give Up," and "If You're Leaving (Take Me with You)" show how little separates the two styles. (And while it's hard to imagine radio of any genre embracing a song as blunt as "Wifebeater," Williams' attack on spousal abuse is brave, heartfelt, and emotionally effective.) Nashville may not have been ready for Swamp Dogg, but the material included here shows he had a lot to offer as a country artist, and while the unreleased album makes a somewhat strange bedfellow for the funky rave-ups on You Ain't Never Too Old to Boogie, this disc demonstrates just how far Swamp Dogg's talents can stretch.

Biography

Born: 12 July 1942 in Portsmouth, VA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '10s

Raunchy, satirical, political, and profane, Swamp Dogg is one of the great cult figures of 20th century American music. The creation of Jerry Williams, Jr., an R&B producer and songwriter of the '60s, Swamp Dogg fit no tidy category. In sheer musical terms, Swamp Dogg is pure Southern soul, anchored on tight grooves and accentuated by horns, but the Dogg is as much about message as music. Williams incorporated all the mind-bending psychedelic ideas of '60s counterculture -- drugs, sex, radical politics,...
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The Excellent Sides of Swamp Dogg, Vol. 5, Swamp Dogg
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